Improving Nadal to face Nishikori in Madrid final

Sat May 10, 2014 4:56pm EDT
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MADRID (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal continued his serene progress in pursuit of consecutive Madrid Open crowns when he swept past Spanish compatriot Roberto Bautista 6-4 6-3 on Saturday and will face Japan's Kei Nishikori in the final.

The world number one, chasing a 63rd career title and a 44th on clay, has not been on top form on his favored surface this year, suffering surprise defeats in the quarter-finals at Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

However, he has shown glimpses of his dominant best in front of adoring fans in the Spanish capital, where he is yet to drop a set, as he warms up for a tilt at a record-extending ninth French Open title starting at the end of the month.

Nadal's victory against the unheralded Bautista ended the world number 45's best run at a Masters event and secured a place in the final where he will play Nishikori, who edged past another Spaniard, fifth seed David Ferrer, 7-6 5-7 6-3.

The Japanese 10th seed, who won his first clay title in Barcelona last month, is through to his debut Masters final and will become the first man from the Asian nation to break into the top 10 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Nadal, who has beaten Nishikori in all six of their meetings, said his semi-final performance against Bautista was further confirmation of his improving form after Friday's fine win against sixth-ranked Czech Tomas Berdych in the last eight.

"After I think a great match yesterday, to have the confirmation today that the improvement is real is very good news for me," he told a news conference.

"And being 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," added the 27-year-old Majorcan, who was also champion in Madrid in 2010 and in 2005 when it was an indoor hard court event.

"This is great news in order to go out and play tomorrow's match but also for what may come in the future."   Continued...

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut during their men's singles semi-final match at the Madrid Open tennis tournament May 10, 2014. REUTERS/Susana Vera