Nice, France – Defending champion Nicolas Almagro and the American comeback story that is Brian Baker will decide this year's titlist at the $505,000 Nice Open on Saturday.
The third-seeded Almagro reached his second straight Nice final and third title match of 2012 by upsetting second-seeded French crowd favorite and Nice native Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-3 in 68 minutes at this final French Open tune-up on the red clay at Nice Lawn Tennis Club. The world No. 14 Almagro swatted eight aces and was not broken on an easy Day 6 for the Spanish clay-court specialist.
Almagro beat Romanian Victor Hanescu in last year's finale in Nice.
His opponent on Saturday will be the 27-year-old qualifier Baker, who surprised former top-five star Nikolay Davydenko of Russia 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2. Baker smacked seven aces and broke Davydenko's suspect serve no less than eight times en route to one of the biggest victories of his career.
Baker saved a match point against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin in a quarterfinal here on Thursday.
The 6-foot-3 Nashville, Tenn. native Baker, who will be a wild card entry at the French Open, was considered to be a can't-miss star in the mid 2000s before a host of injuries, including a reconstructed elbow and three hip surgeries, derailed his promising career. He posted his first win against a top-50 player since 2006 by stunning France's Gael Monfils on Wednesday.
Baker will now appear in his first-ever ATP World Tour final.
The 26-year-old Almagro, meanwhile, is 11-5 in his career finals, including a title in Sao Paulo and runner-up finish in Buenos Aires this season.
Almagro and the 216th-ranked Baker have never met on tour.
The 2012 Nice titlist will claim $91,000.