MIAMI (AFP) - Rafael Nadal took a step closer to a possible final against long-time rival Roger Federer in the Miami Open after a straight sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday at Key Biscayne.
Nadal's 6-2, 6-3 win over the 13th-seeded Sock sets up a semi-final meeting with unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini who upset second ranked Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day.
The Spaniard's forehand was ominous as he neutralised Sock in one hour and 22 minutes. Nadal was able to save six of seven break points earned by Sock as he kept control of the contest.
He broke Sock in the American's first service game and swiftly established a 3-0 advantage and a second break at 5-2 wrapped up the opening set.
The American showed his spirit though as he broke Nadal at the start of the second but was unable to take advantage of a double break that could have put him 3-0 up. Instead Nadal pulled back to 2-2 and with Sock failing to make the most of a chance of further break points it was comfortable in the end.
The 30-year-old Spaniard has never won in Miami despite being a four-time finalist and he expects plenty of work to get past Fognini and make it a fifth appearance.
"We know each other very well. He has beaten me a couple of times and so it will be a good test. I am happy to be the semi-finals but it will be a tough one and I will need to play my best," said Nadal.
Fognini has three wins from ten meetings with the Spaniard, the most recent coming on clay in Rio de Janiero in 2015.
On Thursday, Federer takes on Czech tenth-seed Tomas Berdych while the last quarter-final pits Germany's Alexander Zverev against Australia's Nick Kyrgios.
Meanwhile, Venus Williams rolled back the years to send world No. 1 Angelique Kerber crashing out of the Miami Open on Wednesday and advance to a semi-final showdown with Britain's Johanna Konta.
Williams, at 36 the oldest woman in the field, downed Kerber in straight sets, winning 7-5, 6-3 while Konta fought back to beat Romania's Simon Halep 3-6, 7-6(9/7), 6-2.
Both results had the element of surprise about them with Kerber the top seed and Halep the third and in good form, but they set up what should be a fascinating contest on Thursday.
The other semi-final pits Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki against second-seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
With the local crowd behind her, Williams, a three-time winner at Miami clearly believed she could topple the German but the first set saw both players struggle to hold their serves.
The American broke Kerber four times while Williams failed to hold serve twice, but the contest was more one-sided in the second set. Williams raced to a 4-1 lead before Kerber broke back and started to produce some great shots as she battled in vain to save the match.