Top-ranked Rafael Nadal survived a scare at the Rio Open on Saturday, fighting off two match points before defeating fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (12/10) to advance to the final.
Nadal is set to face Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, who upset second seed David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4 on Rio’s outdoor clay.
Nadal has been almost unbeatable on clay in his career, compiling a 297-21 record, the best in the Open era. His last loss on clay was 10 months ago against Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters.
This was not his best night as he needed nearly three hours to defeat Andujar.
Nadal is returning from a back injury he sustained in the final of the Australian Open four weeks ago, when he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka.
“I felt empty the whole match,” he said. “It was very humid, and this was the toughest day of all. I just didn’t feel that great physically, and I’m not talking about the back. I just didn’t feel that great.”
“It was close because he played well, and I didn’t play my best,” Nadal added.
Nadal acknowledged his victory was lucky.
Andujar had two match points in the third-set tiebreaker, but could not convert either.
Dolgopolov, who had beaten Ferrer only once in seven previous matches, won handily and did not flinch.
Dolgopolov has won two previous ATP titles. Ferrer won the Copa Claro last weekend in Buenos Aires, his third consecutive title in that clay-court event. He has 21 ATP titles.
In the women’s tournament, top-seeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic and fifth-seeded Kurumi Nara of Japan are to face off in the final.
Zakopalova defeated local hope Teliana Pereira 6-2, 6-1, and Nara won over Nastassja Burnett of Italy 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Zakopalova is aiming for her third WTA singles title. She won two in 2004, and has since been a losing finalist 11 times.
This is to be Nara’s first WTA singles final.