Nadal storms past Gasquet to reach Rome final
Nadal next meets the winner of the second semi-final between Briton Andy Murray and world number two Djokovic.
Rome: World number one Rafa Nadal set up the prospect of another mouthwatering clay court final against Novak Djokovic after beating Richard Gasquet 7-5 6-1 in the Rome Masters semi-finals on Saturday.
The Spaniard, who almost pulled out of the tournament with a virus, looked back to his best, launching a blistering attack on the Gasquet serve to break at 5-5 before wrapping up the first set.
Nadal, who has won the tournament five times in the past six years, consolidated by breaking Gasquet's opening service game of the second set and two further breaks finished off the tired Frenchman.
"I'm playing better every day," Nadal told reporters. "He (Gasquet) is playing really well right now and I had to save a few tough situations with my serve. It's been a tough week and I'm happy to be in my sixth final in a row."
Nadal next meets the winner of the second semi-final between Briton Andy Murray and world number two Djokovic, who continued his unbeaten run this year at the Madrid Open last week by defeating the Mallorcan for the first time on clay.
"I'm not going to be stupid. I'd prefer to play Murray," said Nadal. "He (Djokovic) has beaten me in the last few tournaments and it seems he's unbeatable this year. He's in a different league. I've lost my favourite status, so I'll play without 100 per cent pressure."
Twelfth-seed Gasquet began confidently but after flashing a backhand winner at 3-2, he failed to convert two break points as Nadal conjured up two high-kicking serves to save. He then pounced in the 11th game, rushing the 14th seed's second serve to make the decisive break to 15.
Gasquet, who knocked out Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych on the way to the last four, summoned the energy to respond in the next game but after a spectacular rally at deuce the Spaniard produced a vicious forehand to take the set.
Nadal, who had won all eight previous matches against Gasquet, raced through the second set, breaking in the first, fifth and seventh games to stretch his win-loss record in Rome to 31-1.
"I was a little bit tired after the matches with Roger and Tomas," Gasquet said. "I played a one-hour first set. I wanted to take my break points because I was serving well and the court was fast, but I didn't take my chances and against Rafa it's very hard to come back."
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