Spain's Rafael Nadal set up a semi-final showdown with Britain's Andy Murray at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami on Wednesday evening, topping sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours and 50 minutes.
The Spaniard served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, before Tsonga caught fire to win three games in a row, forcing a third set. Each player held their serve until the ninth game, when Nadal converted his fourth break against the Frenchman to lead 5-4. In an intense final game, the three-time Miami finalist fought off two break points to knock off Tsonga for the second consecutive year in the quarter-final stage at Crandon Park.
"I didn't play very well tonight," assessed Nadal. "I think I started the match playing really well, but later when I had the break in the second [set], I started to play more defensive... My feeling was Jo was having much more mistakes than usual, so the match didn't have the right rhythm."
Nadal is bidding to become the first Spanish man to win the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event and is also seeking his first title of the year, having reached the final of the Australian Open (l. to Djokovic). He holds a 13-5 record against Murray, but the Scot won their most recent encounter in the Tokyo title match last October.
"Playing Andy is a pleasure for me, and exciting playing against a player like him [who] pushes you [to] the limit on everything," Nadal said. "The negative thing is I have to recover well."
The tournament set a new attendance record for Session 18, with 14,176 fans turning out for Wednesdayĺs night session.