Rome - Rafael Nadal set up a potential Rome
Masters final with Swiss rival Roger Federer after dominating Tomas Berdych
6-2, 6-4 in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Berdych had caused the first major upset of
the tournament when he ousted world number one Novak Djokovic on Friday.
However, despite an improved second set
performance against the fifth seed, the Czech could not match Nadal's power as
the Spaniard put himself within touch of a second title inside a week following
his Madrid Masters triumph last Sunday.
Berdych had beaten Djokovic on Friday with
a combination of big serves and smart shots from the middle of the second set.
But the big Czech was given little chance
by six-time champion Nadal, who after back-to-back three-set matches looked
keen to get this semi-final over and done with as quickly as possible.
Nadal, who has now reached eight finals in
as many events since his return from a seven-month injury lay-off, broke
Berdych twice in the opening set, including in the opening game.
Berdych's chances of victory looked slim
considering the statistics - he had beaten Nadal only three times in their 16
previous encounters. Only four of those were on clay, and all were won by the
Berdych started the second set positively
by holding serve, but squandered his first break point in the next.
This was a much tighter set, but Berdych's
slim hopes were tempered by a Nadal forehand winner in the ninth game which
gave him the break.
The Spaniard sealed the win in the 10th
game when Berdych sent a backhand return beyond the baseline.
Nadal will meet Federer on Sunday if the
Swiss second seed beats French upstart Benoit Paire in Saturday's second
Nadal will be looking for a 24th Masters
title on Sunday.
Results on the seventh day of the ATP Rome Masters/WTA Rome Open on Saturday (x denotes seeding):
Rafael Nadal (ESP x5) bt Tomas Berdych (CZE x6) 6-2, 6-4
Benoit Paire (FRA) v Roger Federer (SUI x2)
Serena Williams (USA x1) bt Simona Halep (ROM) 6-3, 6-0
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x3) bt Sara Errani (ITA x7) 6-0, 7-5