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Nadal Sets Berdych Quarter-final

Madrid, Spain

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal survived a second-set fightback from Jarkko Nieminen.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal overcame a second-set fightback from Jarkko Nieminen to reach the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory on Thursday in the Spanish capital. 

Defending champion Nadal let slip a 3-1 lead in the second set and saved a break point in the ninth game before breaking the Finn to claim victory in 80 minutes. The Spaniard reached his 63rd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final as he improved to a perfect 8-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Nieminen.

"During the first hour I played better than yesterday, more dynamically and with more intensity," said Nadal. "I knew what I was doing with every ball with no surprises. I was defending properly and knowing what was happening in every single moment. Perhaps that's something I wasn't able to do in recent weeks. 

"The negative thing is in the match I had an opportunity to close it out with great feelings and I made a few mistakes in a row. That made the match more complicated. I gave the opportunity to Jarkko to play more aggressive and with more determination." 

The 27-year-old Nadal improved to an 11-2 match record on clay this season and is looking to add to the title he won in Rio de Janeiro by lifting the Madrid trophy for the fourth time. He defeated Stanislas Wawrinka in the 2013 final. 

Watch Nieminen hot shot and watch live streaming from Madrid.

Nadal goes on to face sixth seed Tomas Berdych, who fought from a set down to beat Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 50 minutes. The Czech, who was runner-up in Madrid in 2012 (l. to  Federer), withstood 12 aces to break Dimitrov three times, recording his first win in three meetings over the Bulgarian. 

"Grigor started really well. He was serving exceptionally well, playing aggressively and I couldn't find a way to get into his service games," said Berdych. "But, finally, I took my first break point in the second set and from that point things changed quite dramatically. I was happy with the way I handled the match and how I played."

Nadal has a 17-3 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Berdych and has not lost to the Czech since the 2006 Madrid quarter-finals, when the tournament was played on hard court. “I will need to run a lot,” said Berdych. “He's playing really well and is just showing how great he is on clay.”

"He's a very dangerous player on every single surface," said Nadal of Berdych. "Here even more with the altitude. The ball flies very fast and his serve is very difficult to break. My goal is to try to be aggressive. I know that to play against him I can't leave many spaces on the court. If he strikes the ball in comfortable positions, I'm nearly dead, because he has a really high ball speed.

"Hopefully I can make it to the semi-finals. I hope that I have the energy and the intensity required to be able to play against Tomas from the beginning in a proper way. I hope that the fact that I'm playing at home is going to be an extra help."

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