Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori to battle for Madrid Open title

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

Madrid, Spain (4E Sports) – World No. 1 Rafael Nadal advanced to the final of the Madrid Open after beating Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-4, 6-3, Saturday.

Nadal, who is one win away from capturing his 27th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown, is chasing his fourth title in the tournament, having previously lifted the trophy in 2005, 2010 and last year.

In Sunday’s final, Nadal will face Kei Nishikori, who defeated David Ferrer, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3.

With his 14th straight win, Nishikori is expected to climb to No. 9 in the ATP rankings, becoming the first Japanese player to break the top 10. The last Asian player to rank in the top 10 was Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan on March 29, 2004 at No. 10.

“It was an important victory for me,” said Nadal. “After a great match yesterday [against Berdych], I have the confirmation today that the improvement is real. It’s very good news for me.”

Despite the loss, Bautista Agut is set to break into the Top 30 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time at around World No. 27 Monday.

The 26-year-old Bautista Agut was also a semi-finalist in Auckland at the start of the season and stunned Juan Martin del Potro en route to the fourth round at the Australian Open.

“It’s been a beautiful week for me,” said Bautista Agut. “Perhaps I have the feeling that I could have played today’s match a little bit better. I think that if right now I had the chance to play the match again, I would face it in a different way.”

On the women’s side, last year’s runner-up Maria Sharapova and fourth seed Simona Halep will clash for the women’s title.

The eighth seed Sharapova downed Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, 6-4, while Halep beat fifth seed Petra Kvitova, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-2.

Sharapova will try to win her 31st career title, while Halep carries a 7-3 mark in title matches heading into Sunday’s final. The 27-year-old Sharapova is 2-0 lifetime against Halep.

Williams, who won this tournament the past two years, pulled out with a thigh injury on Friday.

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