ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Rafael Nadal advanced to the Mexican Open final with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Nicolas Almagro on Friday, setting up a championship match against Spanish compatriot and three-time defending champion David Ferrer.
Nadal beat Almagro in 1 hour, 49 minutes to improve to 9-0 in their head-to-head meetings.
Ferrer had to work hard to reach his fourth straight final, edging Italian Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 in 2 hours, 23 minutes. The turning point was the opening game of the third set when Ferrer fought off three break points to hold serve.
Ferrer has won 19 consecutive matches in this event and on Sunday will be trying for his third title of the year.
Nadal may be the former No.1, but coming back from a long-term knee injury, and playing an in-form rival with an intimidating record at this venue, he knew it would be tough to win on Sunday.
"I'm in no condition to be or even say that I'm the favorite because I'm facing one of the rivals in the best shape of the circuit. Not only he's a great player, he's playing great."
"To win tomorrow I will have to play a perfect match or otherwise it would be impossible to win it. I don't think I'm to his level yet, but I'm ready to give it a try."
Nadal is using the Latin American clay-court tournaments to build up his match fitness as he makes a comeback from knee surgery and set his sights toward the French Open.
"I can't say that the knee is not bothering me, because it is, but that's normal," Nadal said. "It's not stopping me from doing what I want and that's the best thing, that should make me happy".
Nadal has not lost a clay-court semifinal since 2003, and on Sunday will be trying for his 38th career clay title.
He has a 16-4 record against Ferrer, including 13-1 on clay, with Ferrer's only win being in their first clash in 2004.