Sao Paulo - Rafael Nadal struggled into the Brazil Open
final on Saturday by downing Argentine lucky loser Martin Alund in three sets
and later said he was handicapped by nagging knee pain.
The former world No 1, who is recovering
from a left knee injury, battled hard to dismiss his 27-year-old opponent, who
is ranked 111 in the world, winning 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-1 in nearly two hours.
Sunday's final will pit the 26-year-old
Spanish star against Argentine David Nalbandian, who whipped Italian Simone
Bolelli 6-3, 7-5 in 85 minutes in the other semi-final.
It will be Nadal's second singles final
since his comeback from a seven-month absence due his left knee injury and then
Last week, he competed in the Vina del Mar
Open in Chile, losing the singles and doubles finals.
At a post-match press conference, Nadal
said that while he was physically prepared for tomorrow's final, "my knee
"I don't think I am the favourite at
all. The conditions are much more favourable for David (Nalbandian)," he
said. "I still have discomfort. Today the knee did not respond well. And
in those circumstances, not being able to move well, to attack the ball, it
will be very difficult."
"I am going to do what I can... But I
think it is going to be a very complicated match for me."
The 31-year-old Nalbandian, a former world
No 3 who now languishes in 93rd place in the ATP rankings, has also been
plagued with injuries.
He withdrew from the 2012 US Open due to a
strained muscle in his chest.
In Saturday's semi-final, Alund more than
held his own against Nadal, prevailing in the second set before the world No 5
stepped on the gas and sealed his victory with a masterful performance in the
decisive third set.
The duel between Nadal and Nalbandian will
come immediately after the doubles final, which will pit the pair of Czech
Frantisek Cermak and Slovak Michal Martinak against Austrian Alexander Peya and
Brazilian Bruno Soares.
Nadal, who has 11 Grand Slam titles under
his belt, won the Brazil Open in 2005, when it was held in Costa do Sauipe in
eastern Bahia state.
Last year, the tournament was moved to Sao
The Brazil Open is part of the Latin
American clay court swing, along with the Vina del Mar event and the Mexico
Open, in Acapulco, where Nadal plans to compete later this month.
The three low-profile Latin American events
are routinely ignored by the world's top three players - Novak Djokovic, Roger
Federer and Andy Murray.