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Nadal Drops 1st Set on Way to French Open Semifinal With Murray

Defending champion Rafael Nadal dropped his first set of the tournament as he defeated fellow Spaniard David Ferrer to reach the French Open semifinals, where he’ll meet Wimbledon titleholder Andy Murray.

Eight-time champion Nadal won 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 in the wind yesterday at Roland Garros in Paris. Murray, the No. 7 seed from the U.K., beat France’s Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0.

“David, on clay or on any other surface, is one of the best players in the world,” No. 1 seed Nadal said after finishing the match at 9:20 p.m. “I’m sorry for him today.”

Murray silenced the crowd on the main Court Philippe Chatrier as he quickly took the first two sets. Play went into a fifth set just as Nadal’s match ended after Monfils dominated in the third and fourth sets. Murray won when Monfils dumped a forehand into the net on match point at 9:41 p.m.

“It was tough,” Murray said in a courtside interview. “I started well but, when the wind calmed down, he started to play well. I was lucky in the end, he started the fifth set badly.”

The women’s semifinals are set for today, with No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania playing No. 28 Andrea Petkovic of Germany and No. 7 Maria Sharapova of Russia facing 18th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.

Murray has played in every major final except Roland Garros. He missed the event last year with a back injury and hasn’t won a tournament since Wimbledon. He missed four months of the season after back surgery in September and is still looking for a coach after parting with eight-time Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl in March.

Previous Meeting

Nadal beat the Scot when they met in the semifinals of the clay-court Grand Slam in 2011.

“He has good memories on this court,” Murray said. “I need to recover well.”

Despite struggling with a back ache that has sometimes forced him to take some speed off his serve, Nadal hadn’t dropped a set until yesterday.

Trailing 3-1 in the first set, Nadal fought back to 3-3 before losing the set to a forehand passing shot. Nadal took control in the second set with a service break in the third game before Ferrer unraveled in the third set as he made 13 unforced errors. Nadal won the set in 23 minutes without dropping a game and sealed the win in the fourth set on Ferrer’s 50th unforced error of the match.

“I was a little bit lucky, he made a few mistakes,” Nadal said. “In the second set, I tried to play more with the forehand.”

Women’s Matches

In women’s quarterfinal matches yesterday, Halep defeated 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets to set up a semifinal with Petkovic.

“It was a perfect day,” Halep told reporters. “Maybe it wasn’t her best day today, but for me it was the best.”

Halep defeated Russia’s Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2 and Petkovic eased past Italy’s Sara Errani by the same score to move to her first French Open semifinal.

“When it was 6-2, 5-2, I sat down and I said to myself, ‘OK, Andrea, are you going to get tight now?’” Petkovic said after reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal. “And I paused and I said, ‘No, not now.’”

Halep is the highest seed left in the women’s event after defending champion Serena Williams of the U.S., former title holder Li Na of China and third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland fell in early rounds. Halep won six tournaments in 2013, second only to Williams, who won 11 titles.

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