Nadal moves up as rain frustrates Agassi

Top seed Rafael Nadal booked a place in the semifinals of the $2,2-million Montreal Masters as rain produced a frustrating and inconclusive evening on Friday for veteran campaigner Andre Agassi.

Top seed Nadal dropped just three points on serve in his opening set as he trampled Argentine Mariano Puerta 6-3, 6-1.

Three-time champion Agassi was unable to reach a conclusion in his night-time quarterfinal against Gaston Gaudio, interrupted after nearly three games for two hours by drizzle and halted again 6-3, 15-15 for the American by serious rain.

Matches were postponed until Saturday.

Agassi is hoping to extend an eight-match win streak after lifting his 60th career title less than two weeks ago in Los Angeles.

Nadal was able to put his feet up, knowing that he will face a Saturday showdown with Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, who shut down Slovak Karol Beck 6-1, 6-2.

The bottom of the draw remained open as Briton Greg Rusedski and Dominik Hrbaty were never able to begin.

Nadal, world number two behind Roger Federer, spent 72 minutes hammering home over Puerta in a repeat of June’s French Open final.

The French Open champion has won a personal-best 42 service games without defeat this week, as he hones in toward a possible first career trophy on hard court.

Nadal (20) is dreaming of a final against the 35-year-old Agassi, whom he wants to face before he retires.

“I hope we will play. I would love play against Andre in the final here,” said Nadal. “But every match is very difficult.
Mathieu is playing unbelievable.”

Nadal is competing for the first time this summer on cement as he prepares for the United States Open.

Puerta saved a pair of desperation match points in the final game before “Rafa” notched his 14th win in a row.

The grand-slam champion has compiled a formidable 63-8 win-loss record this season and stands 14-4 on cement.

“I have a little more confidence,” he said after beating Puerta in a rerun of the summer’s Paris grand-slam final.

“In the French, I had confidence—but with a lot of nerves. I spoke with my coach. I knew I needed to move Puerta, because if he’s playing up the forehand, he plays very tough. I had the tactics today.”

Mathieu, who broke into prominence three years ago, had suffered with an abdominal injury that derailed his progress. But fully fit this season, the 23-year-old, ranked 64th, announced his return with a first-round upset of holder Andy Roddick in straight sets.

The Frenchman is anxious to take a crack at Nadal.

“He played well on clay, but he’s showing us that he is playing quite well on hard also. When you play someone like him, you have to be strong mentally,” Mathieu said.

“You must show him that you are as present on the court as he is, as intense as he is, that you are on court to win also.”

Montreal’s Greg Rusedski, who changed to British nationality a decade ago, was taking on Slovak Dominik Hrbaty in a bid for a first-ever Canadian semifinal.—Sapa-DPA

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