Rafael Nadal had to come from a set down to defeat a spirited David Ferrer 4-6 7-6(3) 6-0 and move into the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals.
The 26-year-old showed glimpses of vulnerability against his Spanish compatriot, which will worry him ahead of his French Open title defence at Roland Garros later this month, but had the necessary class to grind out the victory.
Nadal dropped just two games when the pair last met in the final of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel Final in Acapulco in February, but it proved a different scenario in Madrid as Ferrer pushed his opponent to the limit.
Ferrer stepped up to hold his serve in the first game, despite early pressure from Nadal as both appeared to settle quickly in the hot conditions.
Nadal was handed a time violation after taking an average of 28 seconds between service points, and it clearly affected the Spaniard as he channelled too much frustration into a loose forehand to give Ferrer an early break.
While Nadal was not at his vintage best, his response came in tremendous fashion. With Ferrer seemingly in control of a rally, the world No. 5 clipped a remarkable return at full stretch with his back to the court to steal the point.