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A determined Andy Murray continued his strong clay-court form by booking a place in the semi-finals of the Madrid Open with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Milos Raonic on Friday.
The Scot remained on course to face Rafa Nadal in the final. Nadal is seeking a third straight title after sweeping past Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-4.
Murray will now face fourth seed Kei Nishikori, who beat David Ferrer 6-4 6-2 while Nadal plays Tomas Berdych, who outlasted John Isner 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(1).
“I feel like I’ve been moving well,” Murray told reporters. “I feel healthy this year, I’m not worrying about my back or worrying about things when I am put in difficult positions on court. That obviously gives me a bit more confidence.”
Murray’s preparation for the claycourt season in Barcelona is paying dividends. The world number three claimed his first ever claycourt title in Munich earlier this month and now has swept past his first top 10 opponent this year on the surface.
Raonic, ranked six in the world, had won three of their five previous meetings but Murray edged him in his return of serve and was more mobile around the court.
He converted his second break point to go 5-4 in front in the first set and then made no mistakes in his service game. The second set was tighter but with the score at 5-5 Murray broke to love and then successfully served for the match.
Nadal, seeded third, came into the tournament with plenty of doubt over his form but in front of his home support he has not yet dropped a set in his quest for a fifth Madrid crown.
He decided to return to his old racket design after trying out a new style in the last two tournaments, and it appears to be working for him.
Nadal returned serve well against the 10th seeded Bulgarian, breaking Dimitrov in just his second service game with a crosscourt winner.
Yet the world number four did not have it all his way as he lost his own serve before taking control with two more breaks in the first set.
After comfortably enjoying the upper hand in the second set, Nadal told reporters, “This was a good win. I knew that I needed to play better and I think in the first set I played at quite a high level.”