Roger Federer dismissed unseeded Italian Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Swiss Indoors in Basel on Friday to maintain his bid for a third straight triumph in his hometown tournament.
Federer's route to the final was also made easier -- on paper at least -- when his expected semi-final opponent, American fourth seed James Blake, suffered a 6-4, 7-6 defeat by Spain's Feliciano Lopez.
Lopez, the world number 39, has lost all six of his previous meetings with Federer who has yet to face a seeded player at this week's tournament.
After stuttering performances in his first two matches this week, the world number two was in full control against Bolelli, breaking the Italian twice in the opening set.
Following a further break in the second, Bolelli did well to save three match points on his serve at 5-2 but could do nothing more as Federer took the final game to love, ending the match with two aces and a service winner.
"He's a player with a lot of potential so I had to stay alert," said the Swiss after wrapping up his first meeting with the 23-year-old from Bologna.
"I tried to vary my serve a little and it all worked well, so it was a perfect result."
Blake was understandably less upbeat after missing out on the chance to play Federer and improve his hopes of a place at the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai.
"I gave myself enough opportunities to win today," said the world number 11 who failed to convert any of the eight break points he carved out against Lopez on Friday.
"But you always have to make the big points and I didn't do that today. Whether I get to Shanghai depends on how I do in Paris next week but I won't lose any sleep if I don't make it.
"Just being in contention shows that I have had a good year even just in terms of my health which is saying something given our schedule."
While Federer will be strongly favoured to win Saturday's last four meeting with Lopez, the other semi-final is harder to call with Argentine Davis Cup team mates David Nalbandian and Juan Martin Del Potro going head to head.
Second seed Nalbandian booked his place with a 7-6, 6-4 win over German qualifier Benjamin Becker while third seed Del Potro saw off Russian sixth seed Igor Andreev 6-4, 7-5.
The two Argentines have played each other twice on the tour, both times at the Madrid Masters.
Nalbandian, six years older than Del Potro and a place above him at eighth in the world rankings, won their 2007 meeting 6-2, 6-4 before losing last week by a similar 6-4, 6-2 scoreline.
"We're good friends and it's always tough to play against your friends," said Del Potro. "It's true I beat him last week but I had to play a great match."