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Nadal Sets Murray Clash; Ferrer Beats Gulbis

Rome, Italy

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal celebrates his 32nd win of the season.

For a set and a bit, it seemed as though Rafael Nadal was going to be embroiled in another gladiatorial contest at the Foro Italico on Thursday, following on from the 3hr., 19min., match he played the night before against Gilles Simon.

But the Spaniard found another gear in time to finish strongly and defeat Mikhail Youzhny 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Nadal squandered a 5-3 lead in the opening set as Youzhny fought back to take the opener on a tie-break. Youzhny then went up an early break in the second set, setting alarm bells ringing for Nadal, who had lost to the Russian in four of their previous 14 meetings. Nadal hit back to level at 2-2, though, and reeled off 10 of the next 11 games to complete the victory over Youzhny in two hours and 44 minutes.

"I played with passion and motivation even if the feeling was not perfect," said Nadal. "That’s always very good news, because when you have a lot of opportunities during the match, you keep fighting, trying to find solutions. That always means that you really want to win."

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The victory earned Nadal a quarter-final meeting with Andy Murray in what is set to be their first meeting since the end of 2011. Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 13-5, winning their last clay-court contest in straight sets in the 2011 Roland Garros semi-finals.

"It’s a positive match to play because you play against one of the best player of the world after two tough days," said Nadal. "I don’t know how he has changed his play. I know he has a complete game but I have to focus on myself."

The 27-year-old Nadal is looking to win the Rome title for the eighth time, following victories in 2005-’07, ’09-’10 and ‘12’-’13. The Mallorcan clinched his 27th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown last week at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Nishikori). The left-hander leads the ATP World Tour with a 32-5 match record, also winning titles in Doha (d. Monfils) and Rio de Janeiro (d. Dolgopolov).

For the second week in a row, fifth seed David Ferrer got the better of Ernests Gulbis, beating the Latvian 6-2, 6-3 in 71 minutes. The Spaniard had also beaten Gulbis last week in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open.

The 32-year-old Ferrer is looking to reach the final at the Foro Italico for the second time, having finished runner-up to Nadal in 2010. The Spaniard will face second seed Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

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