Nalbandian to meet Federer in Madrid final

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MADRID, Oct 20 (Reuters) Holder Roger Federer will meet unseeded Argentine David Nalbandian in the Madrid Masters final after the pair recorded victories today.

Nalbandian defeated world number three Novak Djokovic 6-4 7-6 to reach his first final of the year while world number one Federer progressed to his 10th final of the season with a 6-4 6-4 win over unseeded German Nicolas Kiefer.

The 26-year-old Swiss, who will get a crack at his 15th Masters series crown on Sunday, cashed in on an early break in the third game to glide through the first set.

Although Kiefer, who returned in June after more than a year out through injury, put up stiff resistance in the second, his opponent broke in the ninth game as he extended his winning run to 18 matches.

''I'm serving well, the court's really fast and I haven't been broken so far this tournament so it's been really good,'' Federer told reporters.

Federer has beaten Nalbandian in eight of their last nine meetings, including a 6-4 6-0 win in the semi-final here last year, but the Argentine was the last man to defeat the Swiss indoors when he won the Masters Cup in Shanghai in Nov. 2005.

Nalbandian, a former world number three, has slumped to 25th in the rankings this season.

''This is a very important win for me as I haven't had a good year,'' he said. ''I had some physical problems this year but I've been working hard, regained confidence and today I got the reward.'' Nalbandian crushed home favourite Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals on Friday and he picked up where he had finished off against a jaded Djokovic.

HEAVY PRESSURE The Argentine put the 20-year-old Serb under heavy pressure as he returned deep and hit the lines with his groundstrokes.

Nalbandian failed to convert two break-point opportunities in the opening game but broke serve in the third.

He kept Djokovic on the rack in the second set, working his opponent across the court with his heavy whipped forehands before taking the tiebreak 7-4.

It was the first time Nalbandian had reached a final since April 2006, his previous best performance this season coming when he advanced to the Barcelona Open quarter-finals in April.

He has reached the final of three previous Masters Series events, including Madrid in 2004 when he lost to Marat Safin.

''He deserves to be in the final that's for sure,'' said Djokovic, who added that he was exhausted after winning his fifth tournament of the year in Vienna last weekend.

''He won against Rafa (Nadal) and a lot of good players this week so obviously he had a lot of confidence on the court and you could see that.'' Reuters AE RN2251

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