Nadal reaches final in Rome, breaks record

May 12, 2007 - 6:14 PM ROME (Ticker) -- Rafael Nadal has returned to the finals of the ATP Masters Series Rome and set an all-time record in the process.

The event's two-time defending champion defeated fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, on Saturday to advance to the championship of the $2.83 million claycourt tournament.

The win is Nadal's 76th straight victory on clay, which is a record for consecutive wins on one surface. Nadal had been tied for the record with John McEnroe, who won 75 matches in a row on indoor carpet from 1983-85.

Nadal, who has not lost on clay since falling to Igor Andreev in Valencia, Spain in April 2005, will face sixth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez in Sunday's final.

The 20-year-old reached the semifinals with three relatively easy straight-set victories. However, Nadal was challenged by Davydenko in a match that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours.

After going to a tiebreak in each of the first two sets, the players were 4-4 in the third, before Nadal broke serve and emerged the victor.

Nadal is 16-0 in his career at this event and is trying to become the first player to win the tournament three years in a row.

This will be his fifth career meeting with Gonzalez, though this is the first time they are competing against each other in a final.

Gonzalez has won three of their previous meetings, including a quarterfinal victory earlier this year at the Australian Open. His only loss to Nadal was here in the quarterfinals a year ago.

Gonzalez had few problems defeating unseeded Filippo Volandri, 6-1, 6-2, as he won 56-of-94 points. The Chilean broke serve four times and never afforded Volandri a break-point opportunity.

"I played a really good match. It was really tough to finish last night, but the conditions were really good for me today." said Gonzalez, referring to his quarterfinal win against Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina. "Last night I felt that the court was very slow and that changed. The change gave me a lot of confidence, because I could serve better and go into the net more. I think I won most of the points when I went in. So that was really important."

The loss ended a successful run by Volandri. The 25-year-old became the first Italian to make the quarterfinals here since 1978 after back-to-back upsets against top-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland and 12th-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

"It was an amazing week. I can't forget all the matches that I won," Volandri said. "But I'm a little bit down and sad because I couldn't play like I wanted. Gonzalez made me crazy with his backhand and I couldn't play my game."

First prize is $462,280.

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