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Nadal rallies past Federer in Madrid semis

Madrid, Spain (Sports Network) - Rafael Nadal rallied for yet another win over arch-rival Roger Federer on Saturday to advance to the title match of the Madrid Open.

Nadal dropped the first set on the red clay, but stormed back to earn a 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 triumph in the first of the day's semifinals at the Magic Box.

It marked the 24th meeting between the two men that have combined to win 25 Grand Slam titles. Nadal improved to 16-8 in the series, including a dominant 11-2 mark on clay.

This was also the third meeting in as many years in Madrid, although the last two had come in the final. Nadal beat Federer for last year's title after the Swiss superstar took the championship in 2009.

The top-seeded Nadal will next meet the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between the red-hot Novak Djokovic and unheralded Thomaz Bellucci. Djokovic enters that match with 30 straight wins to start the 2011 campaign, including victories over Nadal in the finals at Indian Wells and Miami.

Prior to the start of Saturday's play, a moment of silence was observed to honor Spanish golf legend Seve Ballesteros, who died early Saturday morning after a battle with brain cancer.

Nadal came out with a break of Federer's serve to start the match, but Federer broke back to even the set at 4-4. He broke again in the 12th game to capture the set, but Nadal roared back.

Federer again had his serve broken to start the second set and Nadal went on to win the first four games of the set. Federer managed one hold in the fifth game, but Nadal held and came up with his third break of the set to finish it.

Nadal gained just two break points in the third set, but converted both and saved the only break point he faced against his own serve. He broke Federer for a 3-1 lead and again in the final game to close it out.

Federer, who also won the Madrid crown in 2006 in addition to his 2009 title, was trying to break a lengthy Nadal winning streak on clay for the third time. He stopped the Spaniard's 81-match clay run in the 2007 Hamburg title match, then ended his 33-match string with the title at this event in 2009. Nadal now owns a streak of 37 straight clay wins heading into Sunday's final.

If he faces Djokovic on Sunday, something will have to give. The Serbian star has already captured five titles in 2011, having followed up his Australian Open crown with tournament wins at Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and Belgrade.

Djokovic's 30-match winning streak is the longest to start an ATP season since John McEnroe opened his 1984 campaign at 42-0. Bjorn Borg also won his first 33 matches in 1980.

Nadal will be gunning for his 46th career title on Sunday and his third this year. He captured the Monte Carlo and Barcelona crowns in his last two starts and owns a career mark of 45-15 in finals.

This week's winner will collect $874,000.

05/07 13:54:47 ET