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Rafa returns to Rome final

Make it 8-for-8.

Rafael Nadal has played eight tournaments this year and has now reached the final in each one after a straight-set win over Tomas Berdych in Saturday's semifinals at the Italian Masters.

The fifth-seeded Spaniard needed just 78 minutes in a 6-2, 6-4 romp Saturday and will play either Roger Federer or Frenchman Benoit Paire in Sunday's finale.

Nadal has won five of his first seven events in 2013, a season that didn't start until February after his seven-month layoff because of a knee injury. He lost to unheralded Argentine Horacio Zeballos in the final at Vina del Mar to start his year, then won titles in Sao Paolo, Acapulco and Indian Wells before a loss to Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo finale. He has followed that wins in Barcelona and Madrid.

The 11-time Grand Slam champion appears to be in superior form heading to the French Open, which he has dominated with seven titles in eight years, and will try to capture the Rome crown for a seventh time. He is 40-2 all-time at Foro Italico, winning titles previously in 2005-07, 2009-10 and again last year.

Nadal had little trouble Saturday, breaking serve twice in the opening set while losing just one point on his own serve. He then broke Berdych at love in the ninth game of the second set and closed it out in the next game.

The victory gave Nadal a 14-3 lifetime mark against Berdych, including 5-0 on clay. The two also met in the quarterfinals of this event last year.

Berdych had beaten two-time Rome champ Djokovic in the quarterfinals on Friday to deny a rematch of last year's final between the world No. 1 Serb and Nadal.

Nadal, on Sunday, will try for his 56th career title overall and his 41st on clay. He is currently tied with Thomas Muster for the second-most clay titles, trailing only Guillermo Vilas' 45.

Should Nadal face Federer on Sunday, it would mark the 30th meeting between the two rivals and second this year. Nadal cruised to a 6-4, 6-2 win in the quarterfinals at Indian Wells to improve to 19-10 against the Swiss superstar.

Nadal also won the only previous meeting between the two in Rome, a 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) best-of-five thriller in the 2006 finale. The two haven't met in a final since Nadal's four-set triumph in the 2011 French Open.

Paire, meanwhile, has been fodder for Nadal twice in 2013, falling in the third round at Barcelona and in the second round at Madrid.

This week's big winner will earn $650,000.