BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rafael Nadal will play Kei Nishikori in the Barcelona Open final after both past champions won their semifinals in straight sets on Saturday.
Nadal saw off Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 6-3 to return to his first final here since 2013, when he won the tournament a record eighth time.
Nishikori, the two-time defending champion, beat Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-2 earlier on the outdoor clay court.
Nadal holds an 8-1 win-loss record against Nishikori, but expects a tough final.
“I will have to play my best,” he said.
The top-seeded Nadal eased past Kohlschreiber, breaking his serve three times and saving the only break chance he conceded to the German. The home favorite sealed the win when Kohlschreiber hit his return long.
Nishikori dominated Paire, finishing the match with a total of five of nine break chances converted.
“It’s been great these three years here so I hope I can play a great match tomorrow,” Nishikori said.
The second-seeded Japanese took an early lead at 3-2 after Paire risked a drop shot that fell into the net to cede his second service game. It got worse for the Frenchman when he committed consecutive double faults to cede the last two points of the first set.
Paire was erratic, mixing unforced errors and trick shots, including a between-the-legs drop shot that he unsuccessfully tried to repeat on the match’s last point.