Rafael Nadal beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 6-2 in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday to extend his winning run at the tournament to 30 matches and stay on course for his sixth straight title.
He remains on course to again meet top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the final, after the Serb produced his best tennis of the tournament to dispatch David Nalbandian 6-2 6-3, breaking the Argentine's serve five times.
Djokovic served fluently throughout and was consistent on both first and second serve.
Second-seeded Nadal had dropped only two games in his previous two matches, but this time the ninth-seeded Ferrero - the Monte Carlo Masters champion in 2002 and '03 - did at least provide some testing moments for the Spaniard.
Ferrero played the shot of the match with a splendid backhand winner down the line which completely wrong-footed even the agile Nadal as he fought to stay in a keenly contested all-Spanish match between former French Open champions.
"I think I had the chance to win some more games, but I didn't," Ferrero said. "(Nadal's) always there, he's always where he has to be. He plays better in the important moments."
Although Ferrero stayed in most of the rallies, troubling Nadal at times with his sudden changes of pace, he fell short in his shot selection when seeking winners.
"I dominated the points a lot of times, and I couldn't finish," Ferrero said. "Maybe I needed a little bit more power to push and push all the time."
Ferrero saved two match points before Nadal closed out the contest with a strong serve that Ferrero could only return into the net.
Nadal next meets David Ferrer in another all-Spanish match, having beaten Ferrer recently at the Sony Ericsson Open in straight sets.
Nadal leads Ferrer 9-3 since Ferrer won their first meeting, on clay, six years ago in Stuttgart, Germany.
Ferrer earlier beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-6 (1).
The 11th-seeded Ferrer served for Friday's match at 5-4, but Kohlschreiber broke back to even the set at 5-5.
Ferrer dominated the tiebreaker and won on his first match point when Kohlschreiber's backhand was out.
Ferrer broke his German opponent in the 11th game, then took the set when Kohlschreiber's forehand return hit the net.
In the last quarter-final, No. 6 Fernando Verdasco plays Albert Montanes in an all-Spanish match. Also Friday, Toronto's Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia will take on Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Bruno Soares of Brazil.0