Nadal beats Struff to reach Barcelona Open semifinals

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BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal brushed off a challenge from German Jan-Lennard Struff to earn a 7-5, 7-5 win and a place in the Barcelona Open semifinals on Friday.

The top-seeded Nadal will next face either Dominic Thiem or Guido Pella as he seeks a 12th title on the outdoor clay courts at Barcelona.

Struff, who beat last year’s runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in the previous round, fought back from an early break to make a match of it.

Nadal avoided a first-set tiebreaker by pushing Struff into a 0-40 hole on his final service game. He then closed out the set when Struff could only stab his passing shot off the court.

Both players held serve in the second set until Nadal again broke Struff’s final service game. Nadal finished the match by chasing down a ball and landing a backhand return just inside the opposing corner.

Nadal improved his record at Barcelona to 61-3.