Rafael Nadal will face defending champion Andy Murray in the Madrid Masters semi-finals after extending his perfect start to the European clay-court season to 13 matches with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 win over Joao Sousa on Friday.
Murray continued his serene passage into the last four by sweeping past eighth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2.
Nadal is looking to break Argentine legend Guillermo Vilas’s record for clay-court tournament wins with his 50th and a fifth title in Madrid this weekend.
However, to do so he will have to avenge Murray’s only ever victory over the 14-time Grand Slam champion on clay in last year’s Madrid final.
Nadal may also have the elements against him after struggling mightily against Sousa after the roof was closed midway through the second set due to rain.
The Spaniard had gotten off to a flying start as he took the first set for the loss of just 10 points.
However, his momentum was disrupted as the match was delayed for the roof to be closed when persistent rain showers in the Spanish capital returned with Nadal leading 3-2 in the second.
Sousa won four of the next five games to level the match.
Yet, the world number 35 let the pressure get to him when serving 3-4 down in the decider as a double fault handed Nadal the vital break and he served out to reach the last four.
Murray was far more at ease with the indoor conditions as he didn’t even face a break point for the second consecutive match to extend his winning record over Berdych to 8-6.
Nadal beat Murray on route to winning in Monte Carlo last month, but the Scot believes the forecast of more rain on Saturday could play a huge part in their latest duel.
“I think he’s definitely playing better for sure, I also think I’m playing better than I was this time last year,” added Murray.
“I need to learn from the match I played against him in last year’s final and put in a good performance again tomorrow.
“A lot depends on the conditions. It is pretty different to Monte Carlo, it is supposed to rain here the next few days and playing indoors changes things.”
World number one Novak Djokovic is also in action later on Friday as he faces big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
Kei Nishikori lies in wait for the winner in the semis after he came from a set down to beat Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/1), 6-3.
The world number six had to wait until the fourth game of the final set to finally break the Kyrgios serve after the first two sets were shared in tie-breaks.
Kyrgios then spurned three break back points before Nishikori finally sealed victory in just over two-and-a-half hours on court.
Dominika Cibulkova celebrated her 27th birthday by booking her place in the final of the women’s Madrid Open as she routed American qualifier Louisa Chirico 6-1, 6-1.
Chirico was making her first appearance in a WTA semi-final and nerves seemed to get the better of the world number 130 as Cibulkova roared into a 5-0 lead.
The Slovakian was just as dominant in the second set as she won the last five games to set up a final meeting on Saturday with sixth seed Simona Halep or Australian Sam Stosur.