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Rafael Nadal to face Juan Monaco in Argentina Open final

Rafa Nadal Buenos Aires, March 1 (IANS) World No.4 Rafael Nadal set up an Argentina Open tennis tournament final meeting with close friend Juan Mo ...

Rafa Nadal

Buenos Aires, March 1 (IANS)

World No.4 Rafael Nadal set up an Argentina Open tennis tournament final meeting with close friend Juan Monaco ousting home hope Carlos Berlocq 7-6(7), 6-2 in the semifinals.

In front of a packed crowd on Saturday, the Spaniard progressed to his 93rd tour-level final overall and first since claiming his ninth French Open title nearly nine months ago. He is one match-win away from drawing level with Guillermo Vilas for the most Open Era clay-court titles.

Berlocq was on the doorstep of snatching the first set in a tie-break after surging to a 6-1 lead. But Nadal fired back, winning eight of the next nine points to grab the opener.

After falling behind an immediate break in the second set, Nadal battled back once again, reeling off six straight games to claim the momentum for good.

"I'm happy for Pico, who had long since reached a final," said Nadal.

"It's a joy to play this decisive match against a friend and for me it is also very important to play my first final of the year here in Buenos Aires, a place where I feel the affection of the people."

Making his first appearance in the Argentina capital in 10 years, Nadal brings a 5-1 career meetings advantage over Monaco into Sunday's final. They most recently met at the Madrid Open last year, where Nadal prevailed 6-1, 6-0.

Monaco survived a valiant effort from 2011 champion Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 in two hours and 28 minutes. Monaco, who is contesting his third Buenos Aires final after triumphing in 2007 and finishing runner-up in 2009, saved 12 of 15 break points.

The 30-year-old was poised to wrap up the match in straight sets. But Almagro fought back, denying two match points in the 10th game of the second set and rallying from a 3-5 deficit in the ensuing tie-break.

Monaco would dig out of a 0/40 deficit while serving for the match at 5-4 in the decider, sealing his spot in a 20th ATP World Tour final.

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