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Nadal wins; Melzer takes out Djokovic

PARIS -- Four-time champion Rafael Nadal is back in the French Open semifinals.

The second-seeded Nadal beat No. 19 Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-4 on Wednesday in an all-Spanish quarterfinal.

Nadal's next opponent will be No. 22 Jurgen Melzer, who earned his first Grand Slam semifinal berth at age 29 by rallying to beat third-seeded Novak Djokovic 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

Nadal has yet to drop a set in the tournament. Last year, his 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros ended with a fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling, who upset Roger Federer on Tuesday.

Nadal improved to 7-0 against Almagro and encountered problems only briefly Wednesday, when Almagro took a 3-0 lead.

"I started terrible," Nadal said.

But he won the next three games and then was dominant in both tiebreaks.

Otherwise, his only hassle came when chair umpire Carlos Ramos chastised him twice for taking too much time between points, a common lament from Nadal's opponents.

"I thought I was being very fast. I didn't even take the time to wipe my face," said Nadal, who is wearing a luxury watch worth more than $400,000 during his matches. "I couldn't be any quicker, honestly. I think the second warning was not a warning I deserved. But, well, OK. I have a watch. I could have checked it. I didn't."

After years and years of failing to reach the latter stages of a Grand Slam tournament, Melzer was not about to go quietly, even if he was down two sets and a break at 0-2 in the third to the 2008 Australian Open champion.

What was Melzer telling himself at that moment?

"Just don't go away," Melzer said. "Just don't make it easy for him."

It worked.

Melzer reeled off seven consecutive games, completely changing the complexion and momentum of the match, and came all the way back.

Melzer, the oldest male quarterfinalist at this year's French Open, had never before been past the third round at a major tournament in 31 previous tries dating to 2000.

And never before had he won a match after dropping the first two sets.

"I got back in, and ... it was an open match," said Melzer. "I think I got a little under [Djokovic's] skin after the third set."

So did the chair umpire, Carlos Bernardes.

Djokovic was angered by two rulings, but one in particular: With Melzer serving for the match in the fifth set at 5-4, 0-15, Djokovic hit a cross-court forehand that landed near a sideline and was called good by a line judge. That would have made it 0-30, putting Djokovic within two points of tying things at 5-all.

But Bernardes climbed down from his perch, checked the mark and overruled the call, saying the ball was out. Djokovic argued briefly, even going up to the net and leaning over it while making his case. But Bernardes didn't budge.

"There was no space between the line and the mark, and that means the ball is good. I don't know why the chair umpire [made] that decision," said Djokovic, twice a French Open semifinalist in the past. "I mean, for somebody that is a chair umpire, and [with] so many years and years experience, and to make such a mistake at that point is unbelievable. ... Even on the TV, you could see it was good."

Djokovic did concede that he "can't blame" Bernardes for the outcome, because "that's one call."

After that, Melzer had some trouble finishing things. At 40-30, his first match point, Melzer missed what should have been a simple forehand volley, dumping it in the net.

"Well, I just thought, 'OK, get another one and make that one.' Of course, it was an easy volley. I have missed a lot of these volleys in my life," Melzer said. "I don't like them too much."

He managed to recover, erasing two break points for Djokovic, but then couldn't convert on his second match point, either, missing a difficult forehand. But he did make good on his third match point, sealing the victory after 4 hours, 15 minutes.

"We were both tired, and everything hurt," Melzer said. "I just got through."

He's about to face another stiff test, too.

Melzer is 0-2 against Nadal.

The other men's semifinal Friday will be Soderling against No. 15 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.