Rafael Nadal is back in full force.
The eight-time champion has reached the semi-finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell for the first time since 2013.
He took revenge for last year’s exit in the third round against Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
The Mallorcan needed one hour and 48 minutes to beat Fognini on a packed Pista Central 6-2, 7-6 (1).
“It was a match on a really high level. Great win against one of the best players on clay in straight sets.
“I can’t complain,” said Nadal in the press conference.
“I’m trying to play better every day.
“I do not compare myself to anyone and do not think about past achievements or victories.
“What matters is today and that is what I am focusing on,” added Nadal.
The Mallorcan World No. 5 dominated the first set in style but was forced to fight back in the second set from 3-5.
The win a remarkable move towards equaling Guillermo Vilas’ historic feat of 49 titles on clay,
At 6-5, Nadal missed out on three consecutive match points but closed out the encounter in the tie-break.
Nadal aims to lift his record ninth title at the Real Club Tennis Barcelona.
He will next face the winner of the match between Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov and Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Tournament pays tribute to Thomaz Koch for victory 50 years ago
In a separate development, organizers of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell paid tribute to Brazil’s Thomaz Koch.
The tribute was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his victory at the Real Club Tennis Barcelona-1899.
“I’m very thankful and excited that the tournament organization remembered my victory from 50 years ago’” said Koch at the Pista Central.
The tribute took place before the quarter-final match between Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini.
Koch received the award from Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell tournament director Albert Costa and Real Club Tenis Barcelona president Albert Agusti.
Koch beat Nikola Pilic from Yugoslavia 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 to lift the famous Conde de Godo Trophy in 1966.
To date, he is still the only Brazilian player to claim the title in the Catalan capital in what was the only final ever featuring two left handers.
“Tennis is now much more competitive than when I used to play.
“I really enjoy watching Rafa [Nadal], he’s a great fighter and never gives up,” said Koch.
Koch reached his career-high World No. 24 ranking in December 1974.
Besides the title in Barcelona he clinched trophies in Caracas (1969 and 1971) and Washington (1969).