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Nadal To Face Murray For Title Defence

Tokyo, Japan

Murray© Getty ImagesAndy Murray improved to a 4-0 record against David Ferrer on hard courts Saturday.

Defending champion and top seed Rafael Nadal won nine of the last 10 games to defeat fourth seed Mardy Fish 7-5, 6-1 on Saturday in the semi-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo. 

"For me it’s fantastic to win against Mardy and be in another final," said Nadal. "I think I played well, especially in the second set. I played better than yesterday in the first set, but sometimes my return was shorter than I would have liked."

The Spaniard claimed his ATP World Tour-best 65th win of the season, surpassing Novak Djokovic (64 wins). The 25-year-old Nadal is through to his 10th tour-level final of the season. He is bidding to win his first ATP World Tour hard-court title since triumphing in Tokyo last year, when he defeated Gael Monfils in the final. The left-hander has a 46-19 record in tour-level finals.

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In the final Nadal will face World No. 4 Andy Murray, who continued his impressive run of form as he defeated third-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 to record his 20th win in his past 21 matches. Nadal takes a 13-4 career lead into the final, having defeated Murray in all four of their meetings this year, most recently in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.

"I think it will be a very difficult match, he is doing very well winning last week in Bangkok and now into another final," said Nadal. "I will have to play my best tennis to have any chance; it’s a big challenge playing against him."

After a closely contested first nine games in his eighth meeting with Fish, Nadal took control, reeling off the next seven games to clinch the opening set and take a 4-0 lead in the second. He brought up match point with a forehand winner curled inside the line in the seventh game and converted after one hour and 35 minutes as Fish smashed into the net. Victory for Nadal took him to a 7-1 career lead over Fish and avenged the defeat he suffered to the American in the Western & Southern Open quarter-finals in Cincinnati.

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The 29-year-old Fish was this week looking to make up ground in the Battle for London. The American, who has enjoyed a career-best season, is currently sixth in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Year-To-Date Rankings and in prime position to secure one of the four remaining berths at the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

"I thought Rafa played very well today," said Fish. "The first set was pretty high quality and could have gone either way, but he picked up his game and the second set got away from me real quickly. The goal is to make London at the end of the year and I’ll take a semi-final appearance here. I’m taking the momentum I had from the summer and putting points on the board hopefully, week after week."

Murray needed just 81 minutes to dismantle Fish’s fellow Barclays ATP World Tour Finals contender Ferrer. The Scot converted four of his six break point chances, breaking Ferrer to love in the final game and finishing with a forehand return winner.

"I played great from start to finish," said Murray. "It was always going to be a tough match, but I played smart and I was hitting the ball very deep from the back of the court, so it was a very good performance."

Looking ahead to the final with Nadal, Murray commented, "I think he’s played some very good tennis the last couple of matches. He’s always tough. He won here last year, so he likes the conditions."

The Dunblane native’s rich vein of form has seen him win titles in Cincinnati (d. Djokovic) and last week at the PTT Thailand Open in Bangkok (d. Young). He is bidding to win his 20th ATP World Tour title.

The 29-year-old Ferrer is next in line to qualify for the season finale at London’s O2 Arena, currently fifth in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Year-To-Date Rankings. He will now look to next week’s Shanghai Rolex Masters, where he is seeded No. 3, to gain more vital points.

"You win more matches and you get more confidence," said Ferrer, building on the positives of his week. "I’m happy with the tournament, not today, but I won three matches and this is important for my game."

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