Roger Federer will meet great rival Rafa Nadal in the Italian Open final after the Swiss overcame a spirited performance by unseeded Frenchman Benoit Paire.
Nadal had earlier beaten Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4 in the Rome Masters with a dominant performance that he described as emotional after a long injury absence which saw him return to court in February after seven months off with a knee problem.
The 26-year-old Spaniard has won six titles since returning, while Federer is yet to register a title in 2013.
The sport’s dominant clay court player was at his aggressive best in dismantling the heavy hitting Berdych, breaking in the first and fifth games of a one-sided first set before clinching a decisive advantage in the ninth game of the second.
Nadal wrapped it up when his opponent sent a backhand return long and then said he could not have hoped to be playing better after his lengthy layoff.
“I am feeling better physically,” the 11-time Grand Slam winner said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Teledeporte.
“These are emotional moments for me as I think I have managed to turn around a situation in which after many months of doubts I am able to play at a level that I would not have dreamed of four months ago.”
The 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 scoreline suggested a routine win for World No. 3 Federer, but the 24-year-old Paire was a break up in the first set and held three mini breaks in the tiebreak before being let down by poor shot selection.
The second set was more straightforward for Federer, into the Rome final for the third time and first since 2006, as he wrapped up victory in just less than 90 minutes.
Sunday’s final will be the 30th meeting between Nadal and Federer with the Spaniard holding a 19-10 lead.