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Nadal Survives Andujar Thriller, Ferrer Upset By Dolgopolov

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dolgopolov© Getty ImagesAlexandr Dolgopolov snapped David Ferrer's eight-match winning streak.

Rafael Nadal will look to capture his 48th ATP World Tour title at the Rio Open presented by Claro hdtv after surviving a near-three hour battle with countryman Pablo Andujar in Saturday’s semi-finals.

A rematch of a 6-0, 6-4 rout by Nadal in the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open last year, Andujar pushed the World No. 1 to the brink in his bid for a place in a sixth ATP World Tour title match. Nadal was forced to save two match points in a final set tie-break for the 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(10) victory.

Nadal converted on a fourth match point of his own after two hours and 46 minutes, striking 40 winners including 20 from his forehand wing. He moves into his 88th tour-level final, where he will be seeking a 43rd clay crown.

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Andujar was on the precipice of making history in handing his countryman just his 22nd tour-level defeat on clay. Nadal entered the match with a 69-5 record against fellow Spaniards on clay and just six defeats on the surface to players ranked 40 or higher in the Emirates ATP Rankings. His lone such loss in the past nine years came during last year’s Golden Swing, when he fell to Horacio Zeballos in the final of the Royal Guard Open.

Andujar was aggressive from the onset, executing an exceptional game plan with a ferocious offensive onslaught, opening the court and forcing Nadal into uncomfortable positions. He was composed and determined throughout the thrilling affair, especially after falling behind a late break in the third set. He would break back for 4-4 on one of his 14 break points garnered in the match.

Andujar’s shotmaking arsenal was on full display in the deciding tie-break, saving a second match point at 8-7 with a sublime half volley drop shot on the dead run. A third match point was denied when he unleashed a forehand winner to the open court, but the top seed proved to be too much in the end, converting on match point No. 4 after a Andujar groundstroke found the net.

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Nadal will now face Alexandr Dolgopolov in Sunday’s Rio de Janeiro final after the Ukrainian completed the upset over No. 2 seed David Ferrer.

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Dolgopolov advanced to his first ATP World Tour final since October 2012 as he felled Ferrer in the Rio semi-finals. The Ukrainian snapped Ferrer’s eight-match winning streak with a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

World No. 54 Dolgopolov will be in search of his first set won against Nadal when he faces the Spaniard for the fifth time. The 25 year old’s last title came in August 2012 at the Citi Open in Washington (d. Haas).

"I'm happy with the way I'm playing and happy to be in the final," said the Ukrainian. "My game plan is always to be aggressive against [Ferrer]. I attack and try to play aggressive. I was a bit better at the volleys and that made the difference I think."

Dolgopolov overturned a 1-7 FedEx ATP Head2Head record with Ferrer to prevail in 84 minutes. Having dismissed the in-form Fabio Fognini for the loss of just two games in the quarter-finals, Dolgopolov impressed again against Ferrer, creating 10 break points and converting three of them.

A year after posting a 0-7 record against Top 20 opponents, Dolgopolov has won three straight to open 2014. "It's good for my confidence to start a year like that," he added.

The 31-year-old Ferrer came into Rio on the back of winning his 21st ATP World Tour title at the Copa Claro in Buenos Aires (d. Fognini). Last year’s Roland Garros runner-up dropped to a 15-4 match record on the season.

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