MONACO – Six-time defending champion Rafael Nadal reached the Monte Carlo Masters final with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 victory Saturday over Andy Murray, who needed a cortisone shot in his right arm before the match.
Nadal will play fourth-seeded David Ferrer in Sunday's all-Spanish final. Ferrer defeated seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-3, 6-2 to advance to his second Masters title match. He lost his first in Rome to Nadal last year.
"It is a fantastic victory for me against a very difficult opponent," Nadal said. "Start the clay-court season being in the final is very good for me."
The top-ranked Nadal had to work for nearly three hours against Murray. He won for the 36th straight time at this clay-court event but dropped a set at the tournament for the first time since the 2009 final against Novak Djokovic.
Murray, seeded third, took a medical timeout while down 3-0 in the third set to have his arm and elbow massaged. The start of the match was delayed nearly 30 minutes so Murray could receive his cortisone shot to relieve the pain. The Scotsman said he was unsure he would play.
"I was really like uptight about it," he said. "I'd never had one before, didn't know what the feeling was going to be like. The doctor said that would probably be what would be suggested even if I didn't play the match, that they would suggest a cortisone injection, like an anti-inflammatory."
Nadal was up 4-1 and seemed to be coasting but Murray rallied against the five-time French Open champion. Murray had a 13-3 advantage in winners in a second set.
"He's the best player in the world and there's a reason for that," Murray said. "It's good to be close, but I think I could have done better."
Nadal lost his serve six times in the match, struggling when Murray stepped inside to hit angled winners.
"I was being patient. I was playing a ball with good height," Murray said. "When he left it a bit short, I was sort of stepping in."
Nadal praised Murray's game.
"He has unbelievable potential. He's very good in all the surfaces," Nadal said. "There's no reason why he cannot play very well on clay because his serve is good, his movements are very good, and his shots are with top spin."
Murray, who is 4-10 against Nadal, thinks he has a way to go before he can beat the Spaniard on his favorite surface.
"I want to try to play better than that," Murray said. "I'll need to, if I want to beat him, because he's going to improve the next few weeks for sure the more he plays on clay."
In beating Melzer, Ferrer defeated the player who eliminated 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Ferrer, an Australian Open semifinalist, has won two titles this year.
"I'm full of confidence. I feel good physically, and also with my tennis," Ferrer said. "I hope I'll keep going."