Paris:Rafael Nadal beat Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-4, 6-2 on Friday to reach the Paris Masters semifinals and take a step closer to a rematch against David Nalbandian.
The Spaniard lost to Nalbandian two weeks ago in the Madrid Masters quarterfinals in their only meeting and they could meet again in Sunday's final.
"The last two matches were very good, very good," Nadal said. "Especially today, I played very good."
Nadal next plays Marcos Baghdatis, who beat Tommy Robredo 6-4, 6-4.
"Marcos is a very, very good player, so he will have his strategy," Nadal said. "If he's playing well, he can beat any player."
Baghdatis, however, is not looking forward to playing Nadal, against whom he has only taken one set in four defeats.
"Well, honestly I'm just unable to play against Nadal," Baghdatis said. "I like playing against Roger (Federer), but I just can't play against Nadal. I'm not able to return. He's slicing too much."
Nalbandian will face 10th-seeded Richard Gasquet after the Frenchman beat 15th-seeded Andy Murray of Britain 6-3, 0-6, 6-4. Gasquet has lost all four career meetings against Nalbandian.
Gasquet took a step closer to reaching the season-ending Masters Cup, with only one of the eight places left because Fernando Gonzalez of Chile now has enough points to qualify for the Nov. 11-18 event in Shanghai, China.
The last spot will be claimed by either Gasquet or Baghdatis, who must hope Gasquet does not reach the final to have a chance at Shanghai.
Nadal took only 1 hour, 33 minutes to dismiss Youzhny while Nalbandian needed nearly three hours to subdue fifth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 6-2.
"The match was so tough, with a lot of intensity," Nalbandian said. "We were both so tired in the beginning of the third set."
Youzhny finished his third-round, 2 1/2-hour victory over Tommy Haas at just after 1 a.m. Friday morning, and looked exhausted against Nadal.
He saved two match points before Nadal won with a forehand pass up the line.
Baghdatis's victory preserved his outside chance to qualify for Shanghai and ended Robredo's hopes.
"The whole week I've been playing great tennis," Baghdatis said. "Everything I do is going in and (I'm) serving pretty good."
Nalbandian had already been eliminated from Masters Cup contention, but remained on course for a second straight Masters title with his victory over Ferrer.
The Argentine, who won the Madrid Masters last month and beat Federer on Thursday for the second time in less than two weeks, won the first set tiebreaker after Ferrer had saved two set points but then hit a forehand long.
Ferrer leveled the match with a smash at the net after a weak return from Nalbandian.
The turning point came in the second game of the deciding set.
Nalbandian broke Ferrer's opening service game, then saved two break points to lead 2-0.
That prompted Ferrer to throw his racket to the ground in frustration and Nalbandian speedily closed out the match.
Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, has yet to drop a set this week.
The Cypriot saved three break points and broke the eighth-seeded Robredo once in each set to reach his second straight semifinal. Baghdatis lost to Jarkko Nieminen in the last four at the Swiss Indoors last week.
"This is my best tournament for a long time," Baghdatis said. "It's because I'm (being) positive. I was largely negative with myself before."
Top-ranked Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and Ferrer all have qualified for Shanghai, leaving two berths open in the eight-man field.