Rafael Nadal will attempt to win his 24th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title on Sunday when he faces Roger Federer who beat Benoit Paire 7 - 6, 6 - 4 in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is through to his eighth final in as many tournaments this year after maintaining his dominance over Tomas Berdych on Saturday in Rome. Nadal recorded his 13th successive win over the Czech, improving to 14-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head, with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.
"Eight finals in a row is wonderful," said Nadal. "Four to five months ago it was impossible to think about this. I hope to play very well. Any result will be fantastic."
Since coming back from a seven-month injury lay-off in February, Nadal has been in remarkable form. The left-hander has overtaken Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the battle for year-end World No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings courtesy of winning five titles from seven finals. He goes into the Rome final on a 14-match winning streak, having titled at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Almagro) and the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Wawrinka).
Nadal is aiming to win the Rome title for the seventh time. He has a 40-2 event record, lifting the trophy in 2005-07, 2009-10 and 2012, when he defeated Djokovic. He is the current record holder with 23 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles.
Nadal delivered a masterclass against Berdych, losing just one point on serve as he raced through the first set with two breaks of serve. Berdych stepped up in the second set, keeping Nadal at bay until the ninth game. The Spaniard made his move, breaking to love before closing out victory on his second match point in 78 minutes.
"The first set was fantastic," reflected Nadal. "I played at a high level and everything went well with no mistakes. I was dominating the points and following to the net. I think I played one of my best matches since I am came back."
The 27-year-old Berdych was coming off a quarter-final victory over World No. 1 Djokovic, rallying from 6-2, 5-2 down to beat the Serb on Friday. He dropped to a 29-10 match record on the season, highlighted by runner-up finishes at the Open 13 in Marseille (l. to Tsonga) and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (l. to Djokovic).
"He started really well and of course it's Rafa and we know how he plays on clay," said Berdych. "I had a chance that I didn’t take and yesterday I had one chance that I did take and I won.
"It has been a good two weeks on clay," continued Berdych, who knocked out Andy Murray to reach the Madrid semi-finals last week (l. to Wawrinka). "It is important that the results are getting better and better and I am looking for the progress that I am having."