Barcelona: Rafael Nadal kept alive his hopes of an eighth title at the Barcelona Open on Saturday as he waited out a rain delay before hammering Canadian Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-0 in their semi-final.
The 26-year-old has made a remarkable comeback from the depths of 2012 when he sat out seven months from July to February with knee problems. His Barcelona success marks his sixth straight final since his return to the game.
The second seed will face Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro on Sunday after the fourth seed beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-1 in well under an hour.
"Whatever happens tomorrow it's been a great tournament for me," said the world number five. "Six finals out of six since my injury return is fantastic. What could be better. I'm so happy to be in this final again."
The semis were played simultaneously at the Real Club de Tenis after rain delayed the start for nearly five hours. Both Nadal and Raonic had won two matches on Friday as the event was delayed earlier by a rainy Thursday.
Nadal holds a perfect 9-0 record over Almagro and has already beaten his compatriot this season in an Acapulco semi-final.
Raonic duplicated his final-four showing here from 2012 but was stopped cold in 72 minutes by an inspired Nadal, making light of the heavy, wet conditions on the clay.
Nadal extended his Barcelona win streak to 38 matches and stands 39-1 lifetime at the tournament where his lone loss came a decade ago to Alex Corretja, current Spanish Davis Cup captain.
Nadal improved to 3-0 over Raonic after knocking the Canadian out of the Toyko hardcourt tournament in successive years in 2010 and 2011.
The defending champion dropped his opening service game against Raonic but quickly got the break back as he began his dominating performance.
Nadal added an insurance break in the seventh game and took the opening set in 40 minutes on his second opportunity before running away with the second set.
Almagro was equally in charge against Kohlschreiber as the Spaniard advanced into the title match in 52 minutes with four breaks of serve.
Almagro, who reached the semi-finals in 2006 and 2011, improved his head-to-head record against eighth-seeded Kohlschreiber to five wins and three defeats with a similarly clinical performance.
The Spaniard is aiming for a 13th career title but faces a huge ask every time he takes on Nadal.
"Nico is playing at a very high level, he's had a great week," said Nadal. "I must be aggressive and dominate the points, it's tough against a player like him."
Story first published on: Sunday, 28 April 2013 09:02 IST