Milos Raonic scored two wins in a day on Friday to earn a place in the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open as the clay event got caught up from a rain interruption.
The 22-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., did double duty as he started the day with a win over Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 7-6 (8-6), a third-round match which was originally set for Thursday.
A few hours later, the Canadian fifth seed returned to the clay of the secondary showcourt at the Real Club.
Raonic used 13 aces to advance past Spain’s Tommy Robredo 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(2).
“I’ve been working hard and have ben able to do some things quite well,” said Raonic. “This is one of my favourite clay events and the one where I’ve played some of my best tennis.
“It’s great to get this far and win two matches in a day. It’s nice to be playing here as I train several time a year at this club. it all feels very familiar.”
Raonic’s biggest test will come on Saturday when he meets seven-time Barcelona champion Rafael Nadal for a spot in Sunday’s final.
Nadal also played and won a pair of Friday matches, though he spent less time on the court than Raonic, who needed nearly two and a half hours to get past Robredo.
Raonic, a semifinalist at the event in 2012, ended with two breaks of serve from nine chances but saved the only break point he faced in the match with Robredo.
Raonic tamed Gulbis with relative ease before getting into a real battle with the 30-year-old Robredo, who missed five months of 2012 with a leg injury.
The pair traded opening-set breaks before the Spaniard managed to sneak out the set on his third opportunity after almost an hour.
Raonic rallied in the second to square it as he set up set point with his eighth ace. In the third, the Canadian needed another tiebreak to get the job done, advancing on the first of four match points.
Nadal has beaten the Canadian in both of their previous meetings, but the pair have never played on clay. Nadal won back-to-back over Raonic in Tokyo in 2011 and 2012 in second rounds.
Also on Saturday, Toronto’s Daniel Nestor and Swedish partner Robert Lindstedt will play a doubles semi against Spaniards David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco after that pair defeated Poles Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 7-5, 7-6(3).