Rome, Italy (SportsNetwork.com) - Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal and two-time winner Novak Djokovic were a pair of hard-fought quarterfinal winners at the $4 million Italian Open, an ATP Masters 1000 event.
The world No. 1 Nadal, fresh off his Masters title in Madrid last week, overcame a lethargic first set to come back and beat seventh-seeded British star Andy Murray 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in 2 hours, 40 minutes in Friday's nightcap. The mighty Nadal is now 44-2 lifetime in Rome.
Nadal got the key break of the match to grab a 6-5 lead in the third set and then consolidated the break with a match-ending hold. The Spanish southpaw won 12 of the final 13 points on Day 6.
The 27-year-old Nadal is now 14-5 lifetime against Murray, as the two stars met for the first time since 2011 on Friday.
Nadal has appeared in eight Rome finals and nailed down his seventh championship here a year ago by beating Roger Federer in a marquee finale.
Murray, who just turned 27 on Thursday, has failed to reach a final in his first eight tournaments this year and hasn't captured a title since running the table at Wimbledon last July.
Nadal's semifinal opponent on Saturday will be 12th-seeded rising Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who is 0-4 lifetime against the Spanish great.
Meanwhile, the second-seeded former world No. 1 Djokovic snuck past fifth- seeded Spanish grinder David Ferrer 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 on the red clay at Foro Italico.
The Serbian stalwart prevailed in just over 2 1/2 hours.
"It was definitely the most physical match I've had on clay this year," Djokovic said.
Ferrer was the 2010 Rome runner-up and last year's French Open runner-up to his fellow Spaniard Nadal.
Djokovic's semifinal opponent on Saturday will be eighth-seeded Canadian slugger Milos Raonic.
Djokovic, who will turn 27 next week, titled here in 2008 and 2011 and was the Rome runner-up in 2009 and 2012.
Also on Friday, the formidable Raonic rolled along by beating Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 and the aforementioned Dimitrov was leading 15th-seeded German Tommy Haas 6-2 after one set when the 36-year-old German retired with a right shoulder injury, which has plagued the one-time world No. 2 Haas throughout his career.
Dimitrov celebrated his 23rd birthday on Friday.
"It's definitely one of the most memorable days of my life," he said upon reaching his first Masters 1000 semifinal. "I'm just a happy birthday boy today."
The long-time pro Haas was the Rome runner-up 12 years ago.