VINA DEL MAR - Rafael Nadal, playing his first event after a seven-month injury layoff, advanced to the semi-finals of the $410,200 Vina del Mar ATP claycourt tournament with a straight-sets win Friday.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion from Spain ousted seventh-seeded countryman Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 6-4. Top seed Nadal will face French third seed Jeremy Chardy -- who cruised past sixth seed Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-2, 6-3 -- for a place in the final.
Until this week, Nadal had not played since a shock second-round exit from Wimbledon in June. A torn tendon and inflammation in his left knee kept the former world number one out of the London Olympics and the 2012 US Open, and a virus delayed his return.
"Today, I had more confidence than the other days," said Nadal, who also entered doubles here in order to gain more match experience. "That is positive. It gives me confidence, and reasons to believe that I'm on the right way.
"I'm happy to win in singles against a tough opponent like Dani and to reach the semi-finals after seven months," he said. "In this tournament, I had a good feeling. The crowd gave me their support all the time." Nadal broke Gimeno-Traver's first service game of the match for a 2-0 lead and again in the sixth game, and held on to claim the first set after 33 minutes.
In the second set, Nadal broke in the ninth game and then fought off four break points, the only ones he faced in the match, before holding serve in the final game to advance after 84 minutes. For the match, Nadal connected on 68 percent of his first serves, winning 29 of 44 points on his first serve and 14 of 20 on his second serve.
Nadal, who turns 27 in June, plans to compete in claycourt events in Brazil and Mexico before playing ATP Masters hardcourt events at Indian Wells and Miami and then heading to Europe for clay events in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome ahead of the French Open. There, Nadal has claimed the crown a record seven times.