Nadal stops Baghdatis to near Paris double

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PARIS, Nov 3 (Reuters) Rafael Nadal stayed on course for a rare double by surviving a spirited challenge from Marcos Baghdatis to down the unseeded Cypriot 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters Series tournament today.

The world number two, appearing at the 2.45 million dollar indoor event for the first time, is trying to become the second player to win the Paris Masters and the French Open after Andre Agassi.

The muscular Spaniard, who could emulate Agassi's 1999 feat by claiming both showcase tournaments in the same year, will face Argentine David Nalbandian or Frenchman Richard Gasquet in tomorrow's final.

Baghdatis, featuring in the last four of a Masters Series event for the first time, needed to win the title to stand a chance of making the Masters Cup featuring the world's top eight.

His defeat hands the last remaining spot at the November 11-18 season-finale in Shanghai to Gasquet.

Nadal opened up a 3-0 lead in the first set but a determined Baghdatis won the next six games with brilliant winners along the way to take the set in 49 minutes.

The 2006 Australian Open runner-up stayed on top with an early break in the second set but Nadal captured his opponent's serve to level the set at 3-3.

The next games were tight until Baghdatis dropped serve again and lost the set by netting a forehand.

Baghdatis appeared to run out the steam in the decisive set.

Nadal broke him in the fourth game and remained in control, although his opponent kept fighting until seeing his forehand bounce on the net cord and land wide on the first match point.

REUTERS RJ MSJ RAI2320

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