Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal advanced to the Italian Open final for the 12th time on Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over American Reilly Opelka.
Playing his 500th clay-court match, Nadal staved off break points in the fourth game of the first set and did not look back as he made his 52nd Masters final.
The 34-year-old was rarely troubled by the towering American, who was playing his first Masters semifinal.
Nadal blasted down 11 aces and did not drop serve against a player who had not dropped a set all week.
“It’s important for my confidence to be back in a final,” said Nadal, who exited early in Monte Carlo and Madrid. “I did what I had to do today, it was not an easy or beautiful match to play. The work is done.”
Nadal is looking to equal Novak Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles on Sunday.
Djokovic comes through
Earlier in the day, World No.1 Novak Djokovic survived a three-set battle with Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas over two days in their rain-delayed quarterfinals.
The defending champion, and five-time winner, won 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 after 3hr 16min on court in the clash which had been suspended on Friday with the Serb trailing 6-4, 2-1. The 33-year-old next meets Italian Lorenzo Sonego who shocked Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Czech ninth seed and former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova beat Petra Martic 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in the semifinal as she bids to reclaim the title she won in 2019 but lost last year after retiring injured while trailing Simona Halep in the final.
Pliskova will meet reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who took out American teenager Coco Gauff 7-6(3), 6-3.
The results: Men: Semifinal: Rafael Nadal bt Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4. Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic bt Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6, 7-5, 7-5; Lorenzo Sonego bt Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Women: Semifinals: Karolina Pliskova bt Petra Martic 6-1, 3-6, 6-2; Iga Swiatek bt Coco Gauff 7-6(3), 6-3.
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