Nadal avoids a marathon with two quick catch-up wins

Rafael NadalMonte Carlo  - Rafael Nadal saved energy, earning two wins in a total of three hours to blast into his fifth straight semi-final at the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday as the tournament got caught up after Thursday rain.

The top seed in the chase for five trophies on the trot at the European clay-season opener, by beating Nicolas Lapentti 6-3, 6-0 then notched his 25th win in a row at the venue 6-3, 6-3 in a quarter-final over Croatian Ivan Ljubicic.

"I played less than three hours, that's always important. I just went to the court and tried to play my best. The first match was not long and I was totally hundred percent in the second.

"It was a tough day but (I got) two good wins without losing a set."

Nadal will square off on Saturday against Andy Murray, who achieved his best showing ever on clay 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 over Nikolay Davydenko after the Russian spent four and a half hours on court in two matches on the day.

Swiss Stan Wawrinka has a score to settle with Novak Djokovic as the pair stage a re-run of last year's Foro Italico final when they meet in their semi.

Djokovic, seeded third to the 13th of Wawrinka, beat Wawrinka for the Rome title last May. But Wawrinka is riding a wave of clay confidence a day after defeating good friend Roger Federer in the third round.

He followed up that achievement on Friday, putting out German qualifier Andreas Beck 6-2, 6-4.

"When I came to that final, I already thought my tournament was successful and I didn't believe in my ability to beat him," said Wawrinka, seeded 13th. "This is one year later, and everything is different.

"I have more confidence in myself, and I'll try my best to win."

Djokovic, winner of all three matches against Wawrinka in 2008, booked his last-four spot as he beat Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Djokovic needed to play on Thursday night in heavy conditions to conclude a day of rain interruptions. He said that the challenge Friday was much the same.

"The courts were really wet, even today you could feel it. The balls were getting bald and really fast - tough to control. But today was a really good match for me. I hung in there and just waited for my chances."

Djokovic will play in his second consecutive Monte Carlo semi-final after retiring with illness against Federer last year.

Murray has been on a roll this season, leading the ATP with three titles and now in a position to threaten both number 3 Djokovic as well as possibly number 2 Federer.(dpa)