Top-ranked Rafael Nadal persevered past fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut for a 6-4, 6-4 semi-final win on Saturday that returned him to the Madrid Open tennis final.
Nadal, who reached his first clay final since winning in Rio de Janeiro in February, broke Bautista Agut’s opening service game and never trailed.
Earlier, Maria Sharapova held her nerve to reach her second consecutive women’s final, where she will play Simona Halep of Romania.
Bautista Agut, playing in his first career Masters series semi-final, couldn’t match the experience of Nadal, who continues to improve after coming to the Magic Box centre having lost at consecutive clay tournaments for the first time in a decade.
“I’ve got better as the tournament has gone on and found my rhythm on clay,” said three-time champion Nadal, who is bidding to be the first repeat winner from his sixth final appearance.
Nadal was to face either Japan’s Kei Nishikori or fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the final on Sunday.
Sharapova was cruising against Agnieszka Radwanska before allowing the third-seeded Pole to break back in the second set. But the eighth-ranked Russian recovered to secure a 6-1, 6-4 win after Halep rallied in the hot conditions to dispatch 2011 champion Petra Kvitova 6-7 (6-4), 6-3, 6-2.
Sharapova has lost just three times on clay since the 2011 French Open, with all of those losses coming against two-time defending champion Serena Williams. But Williams withdrew on Friday with a left thigh injury.
“[Halep] is having a great year so it’s going to be an extremely difficult match,” Sharapova said.