Nishikori edges Ferrer, to face Nadal in Madrid final

Madrid, May 10 (EFE).- Japanese rising star Kei Nishikori's breakthrough year continued Saturday with a hard-fought 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 6-3 victory over Spain's David Ferrer in the semifinals of the Madrid Masters.

The 24-year-old Nishikori came from a service break down in the first set to force a tiebreaker, which he won thanks to some aggressive play from the baseline.

The Japanese world No. 12 then got some treatment on his back from the trainer a few games later and ended up losing the second set after dropping his serve in the 11th game.

In the third set, Nishikori went up a service break over the world No. 5 but then needed 20 minutes and 10 match points in the final game to wrap up the contest in two hours and 55 minutes.

Nishikori has had a breakthrough year in 2014 after enlisting the help of former American star Michael Chang, winning a hard-court title in Memphis in February and a clay-court event in Barcelona last month.

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's final, in which he will take on world No. 1 Rafael Nadal of Spain, Nishikori on Monday will become the first Japanese player to reach the top 10 of the ATP rankings.

Earlier Saturday, Nadal defeated countryman Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3 to earn the right to play for his fourth title at the Madrid Open.

Nadal has uncharacteristically struggled thus far in the European clay-court season, losing in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open to Ferrer and another Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, respectively.

But he has looked in much better form in reaching the final of the Madrid Open, a tournament he won in 2005 when it was played on indoor hard courts and has won twice - in 2010 and 2013 - since it began being played on outdoor clay in 2009.

The Spaniard, who has drawn even with American former great Andre Agassi by reaching his 90th ATP Tour-level final, tied for seventh all time, will next face either Ferrer or Japan's Kei Nishikori in Sunday's final.

In women's singles semifinal action Saturday, Romania's Simona Halep continued to assert her status as a top player by rallying to defeat Czech Petra Kvitova 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-2.

The fifth-ranked Halep will square off in Sunday's final against Russian world No. 9 Maria Sharapova, who routed third-ranked Pole Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-4.

The Madrid tournament is one of the biggest clay-court events on the ATP and WTA calendars and a major tune-up for the French Open, which gets underway on May 25.