French Open: Nadal wins to face Andy Murray in the semis

Rafael Nadal
Nadal's powerful forehand was again evident

Defending champion Rafael Nadal reached the French Open semi-finals with a 6-4 6-1 7-6 win against Robin Soderling.

In a repeat of last year's final, Soderling, who ended Nadal's unbeaten record in the event in 2009, started poorly and was 3-0 down in 12 minutes.

Soderling could not build any momentum, and five-time champion Nadal won in two hours and 35 minutes.

Top seed Nadal celebrates his 25th birthday on Friday, when he will in the last four.

The world number one, whose top ranking is under threat from Novak Djokovic, had expressed earlier in the tournament, but on a gusty afternoon on the Philippe Chatrier Court, he was not overly tested by the man ranked fifth.

Soderling's victory in 2009 remains his only success on clay against Nadal and the top seed's only defeat in 44 matches at Roland Garros.

The Spaniard, who also beat Soderling in four sets in last year's Wimbledon quarter-final, has two previous victories against him in this tournament and another in Rome.

Soderling seemed bemused by the fast start to the match but a powerful backhand wrong-footed Nadal and created his first break point, which was duly taken when the Spaniard sent a tame backhand well wide.

Nadal had a point to make it 4-1 and although Soderling held with an ace he could find no way back into the set.

Moving around the ball in fleet-footed fashion to whip another searing forehand into the corner, Nadal earned a break-point chance in the third game of the second set.

That was swiftly sealed when Soderling's forehand drifted well wide of the line and the two-time finalist's resolve seem to go with it.

His mood was not helped by Nadal's relentless power and precision, and when he netted to concede a third break, the set was lost 6-1 in 32 minutes.

With Nadal 2-0 ahead in the third, it seemed as though the match would end imminently but Soderling's backhand clipped the baseline to revive his spirits with a break.

At 5-5 on the Nadal serve, Soderling saw a total of three break points saved by the Spaniard and the set went to a tie-break.

Having won the opening point against the serve, Soderling then double-faulted with a second serve closer to the baseline than the service line and then netted a routine forehand as Nadal took command.

Even when the Swede began to fire some trademark, powerfully struck groundstrokes, Nadal was able to combat them and turn defence into blistering attack, as he remained on course for a sixth French title.

"I said two days ago today I am not playing well enough to win Roland Garros, we will see in two days," said Nadal. "That's what I said. And today I played better. Much better, in my opinion.

"I think I was able to move very well, even better today than in any other matches in this tournament. I had the feeling I was really covering the court much better and I was able to run a lot better than in the previous matches.

"He was a very tough opponent and I was able to put him out of the court because this is how I like to play. What I like is to play a bit slower with higher balls, and I was able to play that game."

And on facing Murray in the last four, the Spaniard added: "He's coming with confidence and it will be a very difficult match for me in semi-finals. He's playing well, he's a big player."