Rafael Nadal recovered from a perilous position to secure his place in the semi-finals of the Rome Masters at the expense of Andy Murray.

The world no.1 defeated the Wimbledon champion 1-6 6-3 7-5 in a thrilling contest which lasted just under three hours.

This was the first time since 2011 that the pair have met and it was Nadal who improved further on their head-to-head record, the Spaniard has now won 14 out of their 19 matches, and he has never lost to the British no.1 on clay.

It was always Nadal who was expected to progress into the last four, the 'King of Clay' is looking for his eighth title in the Italian capital, the signs indicate that he has recovered from a recent slump in form.

The 27-year-old progresses through to clash with Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the final.

For Murray, he will be left to reflect on the disappointment of failing to build upon a stunning first set in which he blitzed the 13-time Grand Slam winner.

The world no.8 has also struggled with his performances since splitting with former coach Ivan Lendl, he remains without a trainer. However, he showed no lack of skill or direction as he stormed into a 5-0 lead and had his rival on the verge of a whitewash.

Nadal showed little signs of being able to break through his opponents strong defence, he must have been fearing a third quarter-final defeat in four tournaments following his shock falls at Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

After avoiding an early break in serve in the second, Nadal began to assert his authority and Murray's service game was affected as a result.

The Brit was never able to fully recover from slipping to 3-0 as the tie went into a deciding set.

The third and final set was full of thrills and spills and it looked as though Murray, at 4-2, was to land his second successive win over Nadal, following his Tokyo win almost three years ago.

Often the best players show their true skill when the chips are down, however, and the Majorcan-born world no.1 displayed his potential for a grandstand finish as he launched a second comeback of the day.

At 5-5 Murray double-faulted on break point and Nadal then sealed the win by only losing one point of the last 13. 

It may be a cliche both both athletes will have positives to take from their clash. Any doubts over Murray's ability to compete with the best this year, following a rough rehabilitation from back surgery, have been dispelled.

Nadal, meanwhile, who will be the favourite for a ninth French Open title which starts later this month, demonstrated his ability to grind out games against the best players in difficult circumstances. 

The 27-year-old's apparent slump could well end in consecutive Masters 1000 triumphs, after his win over the injury-affected Kei Nishikori at the Madrid Open last week.

Nadal has only ever lost once - back in 2009 - at Roland Garros, and another Paris trophy will see him surpass Pete Sampras' Grand Slam haul with a 14th title. 

Murray, meanwhile, has never been able to conquer on the French dirt, a single semi-final showing in 2011 is as good as it has got for the man who won the first of his two majors in the US Open of 2012. 

Looking to the rest of the action in Rome, it appears as though Novak Djokovic will be Nadal's closest challenger as Dimitrov - world no.14 - has never beaten his semi-final opponent.

The world no.2 Djokovic faces highly-rated youngster Milos Raonic in the other semi-final but will be expected to pull through as he looks for a third title in Italy.

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