Nadal sets up Isner final
Rafael Nadal was pushed hard by Tomas Berdych before advancing in straight sets to secure a final date with John Isner at the Western & Southern open.
Berdych has a dismal record against the fourth-seeded Spaniard having not beaten him since 2006, but he at least made Nadal work for his 7-5 7-6 (7/4) victory.
Nadal is now one win away from a record-equalling fifth Masters title of the year, with Isner the man standing in his way after the American beat Juan Martin Del Potro 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (11/9) 6-3.
Nadal came out on top in a tense first set against sixth seed Berdych - in which he surrendered just four points on serve - with a single break in game 11.
The Czech came out swinging in the second set and his aggressive approach paid dividends when he broke for a 4-2 lead.
But he surrendered the advantage immediately and the set went to a tie-break, which Nadal edged to seal his progress.
Nadal, who is closing in on world number two Andy Murray in the rankings, was delighted with his performance.
He told atpworldtour.com: "I think I played a very good match this afternoon against a very difficult opponent who came to this match playing very well, and I have to be very, very happy about everything."
Nadal will next face Isner - a boost for American tennis, which reached a historic low on Monday when the big-server dropped out of the top 20, making it the first time since the rankings began that no US player has been at that level.
But the 28-year-old has answered the critics in the best possible fashion with one of the best weeks of his career.
A day after stunning world number one Djokovic in the quarter-finals, he recovered from a seemingly impossible position to beat seventh seed Del Potro.
Del Potro broke to lead 5-3 in the second set and held a match point but served a double fault, Isner broke back and then took his fifth chance in the tie-break.
The Argentine looked lethargic and could find no way back after Isner won the first three games of the decider.