NONTHABURI, Thailand (AP) -- Rafael Nadal swept past Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-3 Friday to reach the Thailand Open semifinals. The top-ranked Spaniard had nine aces in beating his 93rd-ranked opponent.
Earlier, Jarkko Nieminen of Finland reached his second semifinal of the year with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over third-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
Nieminen next faces 2007 finalist Benjamin Becker of Germany, who beat countryman Daniel Brands 6-4, 6-2 in less than an hour. In the day's last quarterfinal, fourth-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia played Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.
Nadal was coming off a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Belgian qualifier Ruben Bemelmans and said he played better in his 71-minute victory Friday. He built a 5-3 lead in the second set, then served two straight aces to close the match.
"The first thing for me is I'm in the semifinal, and second thing is my serves keep working very well,'' he said. "My forehand worked well. I moved to the net from time to time.''
The unseeded Nieminen won a string of baseline rallies and benefited from unforced errors by Melzer in taking a 5-3 lead in the first set. Melzer saved two set points before Nieminen smashed the winning point in the set. Nieminen, ranked 60th, delivered a big serve to finish the match.
"I have played three great matches here,'' he said. "My mind is consistent at the moment. I'm serving better than ever. And I'm feeling very good about other parts of my game.''