Tokyo, Oct 8: Defending champion Rafael Nadal picked apart American number one Mardy Fish's serve-and-volley game on Saturday to set up a hotly anticipated final against Andy Murray at the Japan Open.
The world number two from Spain, playing his first ATP tournament since defeat in the US Open final last month, relied on his powerful baseline game to score a 7-5, 6-1 victory.
Second seeded Murray, fresh from victory at the Thailand Open a week ago, breezed by 2007 champion David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3.
"I hope that I can play a fantastic match (tomorrow)," Nadal said after his victory.
"My opponent will be very difficult, so I have to play my best match if I want to win the tournament with the title.
"But for me, being in the final here is a very, very good result. I'm very happy about it. I'll just try to do my best and enjoy a difficult match," added the top seed.
The decisive point came in the 11th game of the first set which had until then gone with serve and was poised at 5-5.
Fish saved the first break point of the match with a winner from a backhand approach, but his stroke on Nadal's next advantage point was short, allowing the Spaniard to batter a forehand winner beyond him for 6-5.
It was enough for Nadal to take the first set. He then took the following five games as the American's resolve deserted him.
The match ended with another break when American fourth seed hit an easy forehand high volley into the net at 30-40 in the seventh game.
The 25-year-old Nadal, who did not face a break point in the 95-minute match, stretched his record against Fish to seven wins against one defeat.
"I did a few things better today. I played closer to the baseline. I had a better feeling when I was playing long points from the baseline. When I had a chance, I was able to attack much better than I did yesterday," said Nadal.
"At the beginning of the second set, I was solid. He made a few more mistakes than at the beginning of the match. I kept playing at the same level or a bit better after I won the first set," he added. AFP