MADRID: Rafael Nadal dropped his first set of the week but recovered to record a stirring 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 defeat of fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro to reach his second successive Madrid Masters final here on Saturday.

Venus Williams made the women's final after a dominant display in crushing Israel's Shahar Peer 6-3, 6-0 — her fourth final from six events in 2010. She will play Aravane Rezai of France for the title, after Lucie Safarova retired from the second semifinal after dropping the first set 6-1.

Nadal stands one victory away from his third Masters 1000 crown of the season after winning Monte Carlo and Rome. Another title at the elite ATP level would give him a record 18 for his career, one more than Andre Agassi or Roger Federer. He lost in the final here to Federer last year.

Nadal improved to 14-0 on clay this season and will now return to World No.2 behind Federer by virtue of reaching the final.

Nadal rallied after dropping his serve three times in the opening set against Almagro, a winner this week over Roland Garros finalist Robin Soderling, Nadal's conqueror in Paris a year ago in the fourth round.Federer made the semifinals on Friday beating Ernests Gulbis 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, avenging his second-round defeat to the Latvian in the Rome Masters three weeks back.

The results: Men: Semifinals: Rafael Nadal bt Nicolas Almagro 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Quarterfinals: Roger Federer bt Ernests Gulbis 3-6, 6-1, 6-4; Nicolas Almagro bt Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1; Rafael Nadal bt Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-3; David Ferrer bt Andy Murray 7-5, 6-3. Doubles: Semifinals: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-3, 6-4; Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan bt Marcel Granollers and Viktor Troicki 6-0, 4-6, 10-2. Quarterfinals: Nestor & Zimonjic bt Lukasz Kubot & Oliver Marach 6-3, 6-4.

Women: Semifinals: Venus Williams bt Shahar Peer 6-3, 6-0; Aravane Rezai bt Lucie Safarova 6-1 retired. Quarterfinals: Aravane Rezai bt Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-4; Lucie Safarova bt Nadia Petrova 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 . — Agencies

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