Rafael Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-3 on Friday to reach the final of the ATP Mexico Open and insure the Russian will not celebrate his rise to number one with the Acapulco trophy.
Medvedev was unable to avenge his loss to Nadal in the Australian Open final, where the Spaniard rallied from two sets down to triumph in five and claim a record-setting 21st Grand Slam singles title.
But the 26-year-old Russian departs Mexico knowing he'll move to number one in the world on Monday. He was assured of reaching the summit when Serbian star Novak Djokovic fell in the quarter-finals at Dubai on Thursday.
Nadal pushed his perfect 2022 record to 14-0, but it wasn't as simple as the scoreline might suggest.
He powered through the first set without facing a break point and broke Medvedev in the opening game of the second.
But the 35-year-old world number five found himself in trouble in the fourth game, fighting off four break points to preserve his advantage.
Medvedev pushed him again in a marathon sixth game but failed to convert any of his seven break chances.
"I played some amazing points on the break points," said Nadal, who used everything in his arsenal to fend off Medvedev -- from his classic powerful forehands to aggressive forays to the net.
"The second set was very emotional," Nadal said. "Daniil was playing very aggressive — drop shots, winners. It was a very difficult set.
"I feel lucky to win that set, because he had a lot of chances."
Serving to extend the match at 5-3, Medvedev took a 40-0 lead before a spate of errors, including his seventh double fault of the contest, gave Nadal an opening and allowed him to wrap it up on his second match point.
In Saturday's final, Nadal will face Cameron Norrie, who pushed his winning streak to eight straight matches with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
Britain's 12th-ranked Norrie, who lifted the trophy at Delray Beach last week, broke in the ninth game of each set and calmly served them out.
Tsitsipas, who reached the Rotterdam final earlier this month, had not dropped a set all week until he ran into the in-form Briton -- who faced just one break point in the match.
Nadal has won all three of his career meetings with Norrie -- at the Australian Open, Barcelona and Roland Garros in 2021.
But he said Norrie has made big strides since then.
"His level of tennis is huge," Nadal said. "He improved a lot at the beginning of last year, and this year he continues.
"It's going to be a big challenge, but we are in the final of a 500 here in Acapulco, so can't expect an easy opponent. I'm excited about being in the final."
Nadal is seeking a fourth Acapulco title. He won his first two, in 2005 and 2013, when the tournament was played on clay, and added a third in 2020 after it had moved to hardcourts.
© Agence France-Presse