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Nadal on course for 6th Monte Carlo Masters title

MONACO (AP) — Rafael Nadal drew within one victory of a sixth straight Monte Carlo Masters title after beating Spanish compatriot David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 Saturday.

Nadal, seeded second, will play sixth-seeded Fernando Verdasco in an all-Spanish final Sunday. Verdasco defeated top-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal, depriving the Serb of a chance to avenge his defeat to Nadal in last year's final.

"Tactically, I played really good all match," Verdasco said. "I am so happy to be in (a Masters) final for the first time, and to beat a player like Djokovic with a score like it was today."

It will be the first all-Spanish final at Monte Carlo since Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Carlos Moya in 2002. Verdasco has lost all nine matches against Nadal, who will be aiming for his first title since beating Djokovic on clay last May at the Rome Masters.

Nadal has won 31 successive matches in Monaco. Verdasco has won four titles in his career to 36 for Nadal.

"This year I think I am playing much better because I am running a little bit better," Nadal said. "I am playing more aggressive. That's very important."

Nadal had lost his two previous semifinals, to Andy Roddick and Ivan Ljubicic on hard courts in Masters events at the Sony Ericsson Open and BNP Paribas Open.

"It's very important for me to be in this final," Nadal said. "I played a very good match today. I was a little bit more nervous than usual because I lost two semifinals in a row.

"Verdasco has always had amazing potential. If he is focused mentally, his shots are unbelievable."

Djokovic never got going and his many unforced errors made it a comfortable win for Verdasco. In the second set, the Serb double-faulted four times, lost his serve three times and won fewer than half his points on first serve.

"I wasn't moving well, I wasn't feeling well on the court," Djokovic said. "It's a bad day."

Earlier, Nadal had little trouble against Ferrer after conceding the first game to love.

Nadal clinched the victory on his second match point after the 11th-seeded Ferrer hit a forehand into the net as he attempted to pin Nadal to the back of the court.

Rain delayed the match for several minutes, and Ferrer appeared the more sprightly player when play started to easily hold serve.

Nadal broke to lead 2-1 before going on to take the set in a little more than 30 minutes. He also broke for 2-1 in the second set, but Ferrer broke back with a stinging passing shot.

Ferrer made two unforced errors in the next game to drop serve again, and Nadal held to love for a 4-2 lead. He then took Ferrer's serve for the fifth time to lead 5-2 and served for the match.

Ferrer's backhand pass down the line gave him a break point that he converted. But he was then broken for a sixth time as Nadal sealed victory on his second match point.