Rafael Nadal keeps alive possible Miami Open final against Roger Federer by beating Fabio Fognini

Charlie Eccleshare
Rafael Nadal in action against Fabio Fognini on Friday night - AP

7:49PM

Federer next? 

So, Nadal keeps alive the prospect of a final against Roger Federer with a pretty comprehensive straight sets win. The first set was a complete cakewalk, and although Fognini rallied in the second, he was always clinging on and did not force a single break point all match. 

Nadal can now kick back and enjoy this evening's second semi-final between Federer and Nick Kyrgios

Fognini made almost twice as many unforced errors as he hit winners

7:44PM

Game, set and match! Nadal defeats Fognini 6-1, 7-5

Brilliant unreturnable first serve, and a slicing ace out wide take Nadal to 30-0 and within two points of the final. Make that one point, as Fognini sends a forehand wide for 40-0.  And he's done it - Fognini can't return another excellent first serve and Nadal is into his fifth Miami final, and first since 2014. 

Nadal

7:40PM

Nadal* 6-1, 6-5 Fognini (*next server) - Nadal breaks

Oh dear, an error off either wing from Fognini have him 0-30 down and right up against it in a must-hold game. Nadal though really tightens up and makes two pretty regulation errors to make it 30-30. But with the wind swirling Fognini then tries the most low-percentage drop shot you can imagine, and the ball loops into the air before being dragged just wide by the gusting wind. It's 30-40, and break point Nadal. And he takes it, as Fognini double faults! Wow, Rafa will now serve for a place in the final. 

Attempting shots like that drop shot is why Fognini is so great to watch, but perhaps also why he has never quite reached the top of the sport. 

7:36PM

Nadal 6-1, 5-5 Fognini* (*next server)

Rafa starts the game with an ace, but Fognini makes it 15-15 with an extraordinary half-volley backhand winner from the baseline. Nadal shakes his head in disbelief. The Italian then shows why he is such an infuriating player to support by missing an easy forehand return on the next point and smashing his racket to the ground in frustration. Two brilliant serves follow, the second an ace down the T, and Nadal holds to 15. 

7:31PM

Nadal* 6-1, 4-5 Fognini (*next server) 

A switch looks to have gone off in Fognini's head, and he is now playing so much better, pinging winners from seemingly impossible angles. An ace takes him to 40-0, and he eventually holds to 15 with another bruising forehand that's too hot for Nadal to handle. Rafa will now serve to stay in the set.  

7:29PM

Nadal 6-1, 4-4 Fognini* (*next server)

This match is boiling up nicely now, and Fognini makes it 30-15 with an absolute stinger of a backhand. Both players were almost half-volleying the ball from the back of the court in that exchange. Fognini then backs it up with a stunning inside out forehand winner. He then so nearly hits a third scintillating winner in a row, but an attempted backhand pass just drifts wide. This is so much better from Fognini though, and he forces deuce for the first time on Nadal's serve with an excellently constructed point that ends with a clinical smash off an awkward Rafa lob. But Nadal reels off the next two points with some very solid serving, and fends off the first moment of danger he's faced all match. 

Rafael Nadal

7:21PM

Nadal* 6-1, 3-4 Fognini (*next server) 

Proving that that drop shot was no fluke,  Fognini comes up with another one so fiendish that Nadal loses his shoe trying to chase it down. It makes the score 30-15, before a Nadal forehand goes way long for 40-15. An ace down the T wraps up the hold, and at long lost Fognini enjoys a comfortable service game. 

7:18PM

Nadal 6-1, 3-3 Fognini* (*next server)

Lovely hands at the net from Nadal, who has become such an accomplished volleyer. It helps him to a 40-0 lead, before Fognini finally ends a run of 12 straight points for Rafa on serve with an exquisite forehand drop shot. Nadal though seals the hold with an ace down the T, and the pressure moves almost instantly back onto Fognini's shoulders. 

7:14PM

Nadal* 6-1, 2-3 Fognini (*next server) 

Fognini is trying to be aggressive, but a double fault and two shanked forehands allow Nadal into the game at deuce. A big forehand earns the Italian another game point, but a limp backhand has us at deuce number two. Three further game points come and go for Fognini, who just cannot put his opponent away this game. But finally he does complete the hold with a backhand winner up the line.

We've had 40 points this set on the Italian's serve, and just eight on Nadal's. 

Fognini

7:03PM

Nadal 6-1, 2-2 Fognini* (*next server)

You might expect Rafa to suffer a let-down after missing those four break points, but he just comes out and keeps hitting his spots to ease to another love hold. He hasn't dropped a point on serve this set. 

7:01PM

Nadal* 6-1, 1-2 Fognini (*next server) - Fognini saves four break points and holds 

Fognini is imploding here, sending forehands long and wide to hand Nadal three more break points at 0-40. But the Italian saves all three! A forehand winner, an ace and a missed Nadal forehand doing the damage. Fognini though then makes a complete mess of a forehand that almost flies out of the stadium to surrender another break point, but Nadal returns the favour with a complete framer of a forehand to make it deuce. The gusty conditions certainly having an impact.  None more so than in the penultimate point of the game, when a Fognini serve bamboozles Rafa and somehow skids away for an ace. Fognini completes the hold on the next point when Nadal nets a backhand. Huge game that, as Fognini receives some pretty aggressive treatment on his wrist at the change of ends. 

Nadal

6:50PM

Nadal 6-1, 1-1 Fognini* (*next server)

One mitigating factor for Fognini could be an elbow problem, which he mentioned after beating Nishikori on Wednesday and looks to have been niggling him today. 

The Italian is starting to get angry at himself as he makes an easy forehand error on the first point of the game, while Nadal maintains his focus and keeps plugging away to secure another love hold. 

6:47PM

Nadal* 6-1, 0-1 Fognini (*next server) - Fognini saves a break point and holds

Fognini did of course produce that amazing comeback to beat Nadal at the US Open two years ago, and he'll have to channel some of that spirit here because that was a very sided first set. 

He looks to be in control of the opening game of the second set at 40-15, but a brilliant Nadal backhand return and a double fault have us at deuce. Rafa then forces a break point with another excellent backhand, but Fognini saves it with an unreturnable serve. An ace, and a very well-placed first serve follow, and the Italian does complete a desperately needed hold.  

Just three winners for Fognini compared to 14 unforced errors in that first set. Woeful numbers. 

6:39PM

Nadal 6-1 Fognini* (*next server) - Game and first set Nadal

So aggressive from Nadal, who has hit just three winners but has hustled Fognini into so many mistakes. Strong hitting from the back of the court and a thudding unreturnable first serve take the Spaniard to 40-15 and two set points. Fognini saves the first one, but there's no denying the Spaniard on the second as the Italian nets a backhand. 

Just 25 minutes played, and Rafa is a set away from the final. 

Rafa

6:35PM

Nadal* 5-1 Fognini (*next server) - Nadal breaks

The conditions are pretty blustery in Miami, which may be disrupting Fognini's timing a bit. In any case, he finds his range at the start of this game, and absolutely nails a whipped forehand winner up the line for 40-0. That was almost Federer-esque. But Fognini starts missing his first serves again, and Rafa wins the next three points to force deuce. The Italian is then wayward with a backhand, and it's advantage Nadal, and break point. Oh and that is a terrible attempt at a smash from Fognini, with the ball landing in the middle of the net. It's a second break for Nadal, who will now serve for the first set. 

6:29PM

Nadal 4-1 Fognini* (*next server)

Fognini is really struggling with his forehand, spraying errors on that wing to hand Nadal a 40-0 lead. An ace out wide eventually seals another straightforward hold to 15. 

6:27PM

Nadal* 3-1 Fognini (*next server) - Nadal breaks

As he did on his first service game, Fognini falls behind 0-30 on his serve - again starting the game with a double fault. But this time, Nadal earns himself three break points at 0-40 when the Italian sends a backhand into the net. In the event, he only needs one as Fognini nets a forehand. Really poor game that, Fognini didn't make a single first serve. 

6:23PM

Nadal 2-1 Fognini* (*next server)

No dramas on the Nadal serve again, as he holds to 15 with some more aggressive serving. 

6:21PM

Nadal* 1-1 Fognini (*next server)

A Fognini double fault and a brilliant inside-out Nadal forehand help the Spaniard to 0-30. Fognini responds well though with a delicate drop shot, and he moves up to 40-30 when Rafa misses a couple of backhands. Fognini then produces another sumptuous drop shot, this time on the forehand side, to move up advantage. The Italian possesses such fabulous touch and imagination. And a missed Nadal forehand then seals the hold for Fognini. 

Meanwhile, former Italy striker Christian Vieri is in the crowd cheering on his compatriot. Here he is doing some cheerleading earlier in the week...

6:15PM

Nadal 1-0 Fognini* (*next server)

Strong serving, backed up with a couple of meaty forehands and two missed Fognini backhands, ease Nadal to a love hold in the opening game. 

6:13PM

Ready? Play

Nadal serving first, after Fognini elected to receive. 

Interestingly the chair umpire is Oscar Bernades, who Nadal requested not to officiate his matches a couple of years ago

Mixing his metaphors nicely, Greg Rusedski predicts this won't be 'easy sailing' for Nadal. 

6:10PM

Warming up

The players are on court going their pre-match routines, and we'll be under way in a couple of minutes. 

Fognini took out the (admittedly injured) second seed Kei Nishikori in his last round, and has been playing some great stuff this week. 

5:57PM

Preamble

Hi all, welcome to our live blog of this evening's Miami Open semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini. 

Fognini you may recall holds the distinction of being the only man to beat Nadal from two sets to love down, in what was an epic US Open third round two years ago. 

In total the pair have met 10 times, with Nadal winning on seven occasions, including the two most recent meetings. 

The Miami Open is one of three Masters events to have eluded Nadal, but he has been to the final on four occasions - in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014 - and winning today would keep up the sequence of reaching the final every three years. 

This is only Fognini's second Masters semi-final, but he's beaten Nadal before and will not be overawed by the occasion. 

Nadal

The winner of course plays either Roger Federer or Nick Kyrgios in Sunday's final, and Nadal is the hot favourite this evening with the bookmakers. 

We'll go along with that, and predict Rafa to win in three sets. 

5:48PM

Preview

Prior to the match getting under way, have a read of our preview below.

Rafael Nadal's dreams of winning the Miami Open remain in tact after a straight sets win over Jack Sock on Thursday morning sent him to the semi-finals.

The Masters 1000 tournament in Florida is one title that has eluded Nadal throughout his glittering career, with four final defeats hurting the Spaniard, but this could be his year after an impressive 6-2 6-3 victory against Sock.

He made the final in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014 and that three-year sequence will continue if he can get past Fabio Fognini in the last four.

There was little doubt he would get past Sock as his dangerous forehand was working from the off and two breaks of serve were enough for him to take the opening set in 33 minutes.

Nadal has never won the Miami Open

The American is having a breakout year on the ATP Tour, though, and showcased his own stunning forehand, with some monster hitting giving him an early 2-0 lead in the second set.

Nadal fended off four break points to avoid going 3-0 down and that proved decisive as the Spaniard then reeled off five successive games to clinch the victory.

The Italian Fognini is waiting in the next round after he defeated Kei Nishikori 6-4 6-2 to become the first unseeded player in 10 years to reach the semi-finals in Miami.

The 29-year-old, who had already taken the scalps of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Feliciano Lopez, added the second seed and world number four to his list of conquests.

Wimbledon's top 50 male players in the Open Era

Fognini broke serve in the fourth game en route to a 4-1 lead but Nishikori fought back to 5-4 before losing the next game and with it the opening set.

Nishikori was struggling with a knee injury he sustained in Tuesday's win over Federico Delbonis and found it hard in the second set, losing his serve three times before going out to the world number 40 in just 68 minutes.

A first Masters 1000 final is a tantalising prospect for the Italian, who admits his run in Miami is a dream.

He said in his pre-match press conference: "At the moment, I'm just happy. Of course this is a big, big tournament for me. I'm feeling really good on court and other times, so this is the best thing that I can have this week.

"I'm happy about my performance. Of course, the result is positive. It's like a dream maybe. I'm just trying to be focused on my game and do my best."

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