Spaniard Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to returning to the top of the world rankings as he reached the Rome Masters final at the expense of Novak Djokovic.
The world number two reached his tenth final in Rome after securing a hard-fought 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win over Djokovic.
Nadal is looking for an eighth title at the Forco Italico and he was pushed all the way by his Serbian opponent.
Djokovic traded shots from the baseline in typical fashion but it was not quite enough as he continues to try and find his top form following elbow surgery.
Nadal must now win the final on Sunday to usurp Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings and he will need to overcome defending champion Alexander Zverev.
Zverev beat Marin Cilic on Saturday although “King of Clay” Nadal is feeling confident after his epic battle against Djokovic.
“To play against Novak is always a challenge and I hit a couple of bad shots when serving for the set, but he played a good game.
It’s always the same against him, when your level goes down he’s always there and you’re in big trouble,” he told Sky Sports.
“I needed to play aggressive with my forehand and when I didn’t I saw that I suffered more. But when I played aggressive, I changed direction and changed the rhythm of the point with high balls and then low balls, combined with going for shots down the line. That’s the moment I felt a little bit more in control.”
Nadal is a strong 1.18 favourite to win while Zverev can be backed at odds of 4.20 to pull off a shock.