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Nadal beats Raonic to reach Barcelona Open final

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The Canadian Press
4/27/2013 2:35:12 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Rafael Nadal beat Canadian Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-0 on a rain-hit Saturday to reach another final at the Barcelona Open.

The match was played in heavy conditions after a day of bad weather delayed the start of semifinal matches by almost five hours.

The loss was a disappointment for the 22-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., who -- like Nadal -- had won two matches a day earlier after rain interrupted play on Thursday.

"It was a tough day of waiting and I didn't serve well at all," said Raonic. "I didn't take my opportunities and you cannot do that against a player like Nadal.

"I tried to impose as much as possible on him but conditions made it really tough. I wasn't able to keep him off balance."

The fifth-ranked Nadal will play fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in Sunday's final after he defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-1 to reach his second clay-court final of the year.

"Almagro will be a tough rival," said Nadal. "He will come out aggressive as always and my goal is not to find myself in defensive positions all the time, and even though it will be tough, try to move him around."

Raonic, the fifth seed who trains in Barcelona and is guided by Spanish coach Galo Blanco, had only six aces and was unable make an impression on Nadal on the Spaniard's preferred surface.

The win was the third for Nadal over Raonic after beating the Canadian in Tokyo in 2010 and 2011 on hardcourt. The win put Nadal into position for an eighth title at Barcelona.

In the opening set, the No. 2-seeded Nadal lost his first service game of the match but quickly broke Raonic back a game later. Nadal's steady clay game proved too much in the end for Raonic, who came to the court leading the tournament with 27 aces.

Raonic dropped serve for a second time to trail 3-4 and held on his next service game with what proved to be his final ace, his sixth.

Nadal closed out the set in 40 minutes on his second set point.

Raonic's fortunes sunk further to start the second set as he was broken to trail 0-1 before Nadal increased the margin to 4-0 before running out the win in 72 minutes.

Nadal has won 38 straight matches on the Real Club de Tenis' outdoor red clay and has now reached six straight finals -- winning three and losing two of the previous -- since returning from a seven-month injury layoff due to tendinitis in his left knee. His eight-year winning run at Monte Carlo ended last weekend when he lost in the final to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

"Everyone knows it's very tough to play him on clay," said Raonic. "No matter the conditions, he has the belief and the knowledge that he's the best clay-courter in the world.

"That's not just in his mind, it's in everyone's mind."

The result matched Raonic's Barcelona performance a year ago and leaves him with a 17-6 record this season after his second loss on clay.

Through his obvious disappointment Raonic was still pleased with his clay game, though he knows there is always something to work on.

"I like the spring season before Roland Garrros, I've done pretty well on clay," said Raonic. "But I have struggled at times and I need to get better. I still have lots of work to do on my game with the French Open coming up (from May 26)."

Raonic will spend next week preparing for the Madrid Masters on indoor clay in the Spanish capital.

Rafael Nadal (Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)

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(Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)
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