Rafael Nadal continued his serene progress in pursuit of a second consecutive Madrid Open crown when he swept past Spanish compatriot Roberto Bautista 6-4 6-3 on Saturday to secure a berth in Sunday’s final.
The world number one, chasing a 63rd career title and a 44th on clay, has not been on top form on his favoured surface this year, losing in the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
However, he has shown glimpses of his dominant best in the Spanish capital as he warms up for a tilt at a record-extending ninth French Open title starting at Roland Garros in Paris 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 set up a clash with another Spaniard, fifth seed David Ferrer, who beat him in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals, or Japanese 10th seed Kei Nishikori.
Nadal broke his compatriot’s serve in the opening game at the Magic Box arena but Bautista fought back to level at 3-3 before immediately losing his serve again.
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He looked to have crumbled in the face of a barrage of fierce Nadal drives in the second set but raised his game to break for 4-2.
Nadal, who will be contesting his 90th career final on Sunday, broke his opponent’s serve for the fifth time in the ninth game and sealed victory on his first match point with a rasping forehand down the line.