Rafael Nadal to play Andy Murray in Madrid Open final

    Rafael Nadal is seeking to win the Madrid title for the third year in a row.

    (CNN)Madrid was kind to Rafael Nadal last year, and the Spanish tennis star is hoping the capital city will once again serve up a tonic for his clay season.

    The world No. 4 won his fourth Madrid Open title in 2014 when Kei Nishikori retired hurt in the final, and Nadal went on to claim a record-extending ninth French Open title.
    Like last year, Nadal has suffered disappointment in his former strongholds of Monte Carlo and Barcelona, leading many to believe top-ranked Novak Djokovic might finally be crowned king of clay at Roland Garros next month.
      "This week was vital for me and to be in the final is great news," said Nadal, who beat Tomas Berdych in Saturday's opening semifinal.
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      "Last year Madrid helped me a lot and this year I think it is again."
      Berdych beat Nadal in January's Australian Open quarterfinals, but the Czech's record against him on clay slipped to 0-7 on clay as he faltered after a close first set to lose 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 at the Caja Magica.
      Berdych, who lost to Djokovic in last month's Monte Carlo final, had reached the semis for the seventh time in eight tournaments.
      "It is without doubt one of the best matches I have played all year," said 14-time grand slam champion Nadal.
      "Tomas is playing spectacularly this year, he is competing in all the tournaments and I had to be at a high level to beat him."
      In the seventh Madrid final of his career, the Mallorcan will face Andy Murray on Sunday after Britain's world No. 3 beat Japan's Nishikori 6-3 6-4 in the second semi.
      Murray won the Madrid title in 2008 when it was played indoors on hard courts, but this is his first clay final at Masters level. The Scot won his first title on red dirt in Munich in Monday's rain-delayed final.
      Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova followed up her shock victory over world No. 1 Serena Williams by thrashing Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Madrid women's final on Saturday.
      The two-time Wimbledon champion, who gave Williams her first defeat since October 2014, triumphed 6-1 6-2 against the Russian.
      Kuznetsova, also a double grand slam winner, had reached the final by beating fellow Russian and defending champion Maria Sharapova on Friday.
      But the 29-year-old, who beat Kvitova at last year's French Open in their only other clay-court clash, could not maintain that energy after 11 hours on court this week and has now lost 21 of her 34 career finals.
      Fourth-ranked Kvitova lost the first match of her return to WTA Tour action in Stuttgart last month following an extended break, but has now claimed her 16th career title -- and second in Madrid after her 2011 success.