Nadal reaches singles semifinals at VTR Open

VINA DEL MAR, Chile — Rafael Nadal tested his sore left knee with a pair of matches on Friday, defeating fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the VTR Open, then advancing in the doubles tournament as well.

Nadal, who is returning to the tour after seven months off due to the knee injury, teamed with Juan Monaco to post a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the Argentine pair of Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer.

The twin wins meant Nadal had played five matches in four days.

Nadal will play France's Jeremy Chardy in the singles semifinals today. If he advances, the Spaniard then will face another busy day on Sunday with a singles final and the doubles championship against the Italian pair Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace.

Nadal's goal is to get back to the top and challenge the other three of tennis' Top Four: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

He took the court Friday with temperatures hovering around 85 degrees in the middle to the South American summer. He is likely to encounter similar temperatures when he plays next week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and later this month in Acapulco, Mexico.

Nadal has said he's not focusing on the results while he uses the Latin American clay-court events to hone his game. But most fans expect one of the most dominant clay-court players in history — he has won 93 percent of his singles matches on the surface — to win all three tournaments and show he's ready to challenge for an eighth French Open title come May.

He will turn 27 in the middle of the French Open.

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