Nadal overcomes crowd and Fognini to reach Rome semifinals

Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Italy's Fabio Fognini during a quarter final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns the ball to Germany's Angelique Kerber during a quarter final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Germany's Angelique Kerber returns the ball to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina during a quarter final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina sports a tattoo on her leg during a quarter final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Italy's Fabio Fognini stands on the central court during a quarter final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)

ROME — Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal overcame a poor first set and a partisan crowd to beat Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and reach the Italian Open semifinals on Friday.

The crowd at the Foro Italico was decidedly behind Fognini, Italy's top player, and Nadal was under pressure when Fognini won five straight games to cancel out a 4-1 deficit and win the opening set.

But Fognini couldn't keep up with Nadal's consistency and heavy topspin on the red clay court and eventually was physically worn down.

Fognini had tape applied under his left knee while trailing 3-2 in the third set due to an apparent physical problem.

For a spot in the final, Nadal will play four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori.

In the women's quarterfinals, defending champion Elina Svitolina defeated Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-4 for her sixth straight victory over the former No. 1 player.

Svitolina will next face Caroline Wozniacki or Anett Kontaveit.

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More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf

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