Carlos Alcaraz remains on track to defend his Madrid Open title after overcoming a determined Karen Khachanov to reach the last four.
The top seed ultimately prevailed 6-4, 7-5, but only after he put together an impressive second-set fight to book a third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final of the season.
Alcaraz’s clay-court winning streak now stands at nine and he has tasted victory in 19 of his last 20 matches, claiming titles at Indian Wells and Barcelona along the way.
A hard-fought first match went the way of the Spaniard, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Friday, but the second set initially did not go as planned.
Khachanov built a 5-2 lead and looked set to force a decider only for Alcaraz to find his A-game with a series of game winners and drop shots to ultimately clinch victory in one hour and 51 minutes.
“It was pretty tough. The first set was also close”, said Alcaraz.
“I was in trouble in the second set, a break and [he had] two break points to have the second break. So, it was very difficult for me to come back and he had his chances to win the second set.
“Luckily I knew I was going to have my chances. I just tried to take advantage of my opportunities and I am very happy to pass.
Borna Coric will face Alcaraz for a place in the Madrid Open final on Friday in what will be their first meeting.
The Croatian edged out lucky loser Daniel Altmaier 6-3, 6-3 with victory achieved in one hour and 14 minutes for the 17th seed.
“I always love playing here in Madrid,” Coric said on the pitch.
“I have very, very good memories from here and I knew that I could play well.
“I came here very early to prepare for the tournament as it is, I would say, a bit different than the next tournaments. I am very happy to be in the semifinals”.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray broke his losing streak with a victory over Gael Monfils at an ATP Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence.
After first-round exits at the Miami Open, Monte-Carlo Masters and Madrid Open, Murray was able to return to winning ways with a 6-3, 6-3 win over wild card Monfils.
Murray will face another Frenchman, Laurent Lokoli, in the round of 16 and aims to build momentum ahead of this month’s French Open at Roland Garros.