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Simona & Petkovic set up last-4 clash

- Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray enter semi-finals

Andrea Petkovic kisses her racquet after defeating Sara Errani, in Paris, on Wednesday

Paris: Defending champion Rafael Nadal survived David Ferrer’s early fury to advance into the French Open semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 win in a repeat of last year’s final on Wednesday.

World No. 1 Nadal, chasing a record-extending ninth Roland Garros title, had no answer to the fifth seed’s pace on court Suzanne Lenglen in the first set.

But Ferrer, one of three men who have beaten the clay court machine on his favourite surface this year, ran out of steam in the second, which he narrowly lost before Nadal devoured him.

Andy Murray ended home hopes by beating Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0 in front of a roaring crowd to reach his first Roland Garros semi-final since 2011.

The last Frenchman standing in Paris sent the decibel levels soaring when he stole back the third and fourth sets but Murray was in a hurry to take the fifth and ensure the match did not go into Thursday due to the fading light.

Earlier, Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep outfoxed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-2, 6-2 to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final.

Halep, junior champion at Roland Garros in 2008, will face Andrea Petkovic for a place in Saturday’s final after the German beat former runner-up Sara Errani, of Italy.

Petkovic, the 28th-seeded German, beat 2012 French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy 6-2, 6-2.

Russian 27th seed Kuznetsova, who won the title in 2009 to go with her 2004 U.S. Open title, took a medical timeout after the first set and came back with her left thigh strapped.

She wasted break points early in the second set and made too many unforced forehand errors as Halep wrapped it up on the first match point when Kuznetsova netted a service return.

Not a hard hitter, Halep compensates for her relative lack of power with her tactical play. Prowling along the baseline, she moved Kuznetsova around with crosscourt shots, forcing the Russian to misfire.

She took the first game on her opponent's serve, only for Kuznetsova to break back for 2-2 as the Russian played deeper.

But Halep stuck to her strategy and won the remaining four games, taking the set when Kuznetsova sent a forehand long.

The Russian had her chance in the second game of the second set but she wasted her two break points with unforced errors. She had two further chances in the fourth game, but Halep saved them with an exquisite drop shot and a superb backhand down the line to hold for 3-1.

Halep, who converted six of her eight break points while Kuznetsova blew seven of her nine chances to steal her opponent's serve, fired a few stunning return winners to break again in the fifth game.

With the contest virtually over, Halep lost focus and served three double faults in the last game, but still managed to close it down having not dropped a set in the tournament, conceding just over four games per match.

Earlier, torrential rain played spoilsport and matches were delayed. Play finally started at the French Open on Wednesday after rain held up the start of quarter-final action by almost three hours on day 11. “I have to say, today I was in a real zone. I didn’t think at all,” Petkovic said. “I was just focused on what I had to do.”

Neither Petkovic nor Halep has ever played in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament. But they will meet on Thursday to fight for a spot in the final against either Maria Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard. Petkovic was first to complete her match on a wet day at Roland Garros. And although she had some trouble holding serve at the start of each set, her groundstrokes consistently landed near the lines, many of them for winners. (Agencies)