MONTE CARLO • Andy Murray will face the toughest clay test imaginable at the Monte Carlo Masters today as he plays a semi-final with Rafael Nadal after crushing an under-done Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0.
Nadal, winner of eight straight titles from 2005-2012, holds the edge over the second-seeded Scotsman, having defeated Murray in the 2009 and 2011 semi-finals.
The Spanish fifth seed, who has spent almost 18 months in making a comeback to form after a slump, played some of his best tennis as he beat French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4 in their quarter-final yesterday.
Nadal took 77 minutes to seal victory against the tepid Swiss, the 2014 Monte Carlo winner.
Wawrinka cracked a racket in the fifth game of the first set on his way to the loss. The disappointing fourth seed ended with 29 unforced errors while dropping serve four times.
Nadal, bidding to win his first title of the season to draw level with Djokovic by capturing his 28th Masters 1000 crown, faced just one break point throughout the match, which he saved.
"He wasn't at his best (at the end of the first set)," Nadal said in a courtside interview.
"In the second set, there were some good points. I was competing a little bit better and hitting forehand winners. That is a confidence shot for me.
"Murray is a very difficult opponent but I hope to be ready for it."
World No. 2 Murray was always in command against Raonic, who has been suffering with the return of a right-leg injury which troubled him at the Australian Open two months ago.
Raonic, playing a Monte Carlo quarter-final for a third consecutive edition, was never in the match, failing to find a single ace in his 66-minute defeat.
Murray said that while his win might not have been pretty, it still gave him confidence after struggling through his first two contests this week.
"I've played a lot of tennis, though it has all not been of the highest quality," said the 28-year-old, who came from 4-5 down in the third set to beat Frenchman Benoit Paire in the previous round.
"I've been able to learn from my previous matches. Today I served one of my best matches. Milos was not at his best, he can certainly serve better than he did today. I'm looking forward to the semi-finals."
World No. 5 Nadal leads his career rivalry with Murray 16-6.
Eight of those encounters have come on clay, with Murray winning just one - albeit their last match-up on his least favourite surface. The Briton upset the king of clay 6-3, 6-2 at the Madrid Masters last year.
Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stunned world No. 3 Roger Federer 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 in their quarter-final yesterday. The Frenchman will next face either compatriot Gael Monfils or Spaniard Marcel Granollers for a place in the final.
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Day 6: S-finals (StarHub Ch201, 7pm)