Ominous Nadal marches into Monte Carlo semi-finals

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Defending champion Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to a 10th Monte-Carlo Masters title with a straight-sets victory over the impressive Diego Schwartzman.

With Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka all out of the clay-court tournament in the principality, Nadal is the firm favourite to retain his title after seeing off the unseeded Argentine 6-4 6-4.

Fourth seed Nadal gave another demonstration of why he is known as King of Clay, coming back from 4-2 down in the second set to ensure he will face Djokovic's conquerer David Goffin for the first time in the last four.

Schwartzman, who will move into the top 40 in the rankings for the first time on Monday, gave a great account of himself but the 14-time grand slam champion proved to be too good.

The sprightly Schwartzman unleashed a brilliant cross-court backhand to break to love in the opening game of the match, but Nadal hit straight back and opened up a 3-1 lead as the pair traded blows from the baseline.

The underdog was brimming with confidence, though, treating the crowd to some sumptuous drop shots and lobs to turn the tide and level at 4-4 under the lights.

Schwartzman continued to come up with some classy winners, but Nadal broke for a third time to take a high-quality opening set.

The positive Schwartzman conjured up groundstrokes of the highest order and was rewarded for taking risks as he won four games in a row to lead 4-2 in the second set, but Nadal had reeled off 14 consecutive points by the time he sealed the victory with a sublime backhand.