MADRID: World number one Rafael Nadal will face Japan’s Kei Nishikori in Sunday’s Madrid Masters final after he romped past fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday.
Tenth seed Nishikori had a much sterner test as he needed 10 match points to finally overcome David Ferrer 7-6, (7/5), 5-7, 6-3 in nearly three hours to record his 14th straight win.
Nadal has now won 12 sets in a row in the Spanish capital as he looks for his first title of the European clay court season after suffering shock defeats in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.
“After a great match yesterday to have the confirmation today that the improvement is real is a very good news and important for me,” said the 13-time Grand Slam champion.
“I think for moments I played great tennis against an opponent that is playing really well and improving a lot.
“To be in a final here in a difficult tournament at home after losing two weeks in a row in the quarter-finals means a lot to me.”
Nadal has said consistently throughout the week that his game has been improving slowly on the clay from a poor start in Monte Carlo and underlined the importance of using his forehand to dictate the rallies more than he was in recent weeks.
“I’m playing my logical game again that I’ve always done on clay. I think I’m playing well with my forehand and defending very well. Especially when I have a short balls my forehand is dangerous again.”
After breaking the Bautista Agut serve in the opening game, Nadal was pegged back after a sloppy service game of his own to allow the world number 45 to level at 3-3.
However, the three-time champion in Madrid suddenly upped his intensity to take the next seven games to close out the first set and move a double break up in the second.
Bautista Agut showed some resistence to stave off two more break points to get himself on the board before breaking to close to within a game of Nadal at 4-3.
Nadal, though, upped his level again to take the final two games to round off victory in an hour and 43 minutes.