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Nadal makes final

- Serena, Sharapova to clash for title and No. 1 ranking
Maria Sharapova, on Saturday

Madrid: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will play for both the No. 1 ranking and the Madrid Open title after both won their semi-finals in straight sets on Saturday.

The top-ranked Serena will have a chance to win her 50th career title after beating Sara Errani of Italy 7-5, 6-2, while No. 2 Sharapova recorded her 500th career win at all levels after seeing off Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-3.

Among men, Andy Murray’s latest bid for a maiden clay title ended when he fell to Tomas Berdych in the quarter finals.

Murray had lost his last two matches on clay against Berdych and was beaten 7-6, 6-4 by the Czech sixth seed. Berdych, however, lost 3-6, 6-4, 4-6 in the semis to Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.

The Swiss will meet Nadal, who is one win away from a fifth title since returning from injury. The Spanish world No. 5 had thumped compatriot Pablo Andujar 6-0, 6-4.

With his customary strapping on the troublesome left knee that sidelined him for seven months until February, home favourite Nadal was in scintillating form as he raced through the first set.

Andujar, a tournament wildcard ranked 113 in the world, put up more of a fight in the second but Nadal secured a fourth break in the ninth game and served out to move a step closer to his third title at the Masters event in the Spanish capital.

It will be Nadal’s seventh final appearance in seven tournaments since he returned. “The results could not have been better,” he said. “Five months ago I could not have dreamed of everything that has happened during these past few months. It’s almost a dream to be back in another final at home here in Madrid.”

Nadal extended his spectacular winning streak in semi-finals on his favoured clay, his last defeat coming a decade ago when he fell to compatriot Carlos Moya in Umag.

Saturday’s success against Andujar was Nadal’s 46th last-four victory on the red dust in a row.

The Majorcan is third on the list of clay title winners in the professional era with 39, trailing fellow left-handers Guillermo Vilas (45) and Thomas Muster (40).

Sharapova has won all 10 sets she has played on Madrid’s outdoor red clay court. Serena, however, boasts a 12-2 record against the Russian.

After a skittish start, Serena dominated Errani and broke her final service game in both sets.

“I feel I played solid,” Serena said. “In the second set more than in the first, I made a few less errors, which is something I needed to do.”

The defending champion improved to 5-0 against the seventh-ranked Errani and to 30-2 overall this year.

Serena said Sharapova would pose a difficult challenge.

The Indian challenge, meanwhile, ended with the straight-set defeat of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna at the hands of unseeded team of Jeremy Chardy and Lukas Kubot.

The Indian team squandered all the six points it earned in the second set to suffer a 2-6, 4-6 defeat against the French-Polish combo in the quarter finals.