Madrid - World number one Rafael Nadal has remained on course to retain his Madrid Masters title on Saturday with a 6-4, 6-3 semi-final victory over fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion has now won 12 sets in a row in the Spanish capital as he looks for his first title of the European clay court season after suffering shock defeats in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open in recent weeks.
And Nadal could have the chance to avenge his defeat to David Ferrer in Monte Carlo should the world number five overcome Kei Nishikori in Saturday's other semi-final.
"After a great match yesterday to have the confirmation today that the improvement is real is a very good news and important for me," said Nadal.
"I think for moments I played great tennis against an opponent that is playing really well and improving a lot.
"To be in a final here in a difficult tournament at home after losing two weeks in a row in the quarter-finals means a lot to me."
Nadal has said consistently throughout the week that his game has been improving slowly on the clay from a poor start in Monte Carlo and underlined the importance of using his forehand to dictate the rallies more than he was in recent weeks.
"The fact of being able to win four matches in a row is something really positive. As I said at the beginning of the week, I think that in Barcelona I could have and should have won that match, but I let it go.
"That makes you suffer a little bit and it makes you start the next week from zero.
"I'm playing my logical game again that I've always done on clay. I think I'm playing well with my forehand and defending very well. Especially when I have a short balls my forehand is dangerous again."
After breaking the Bautista Agut serve in the opening game, Nadal was pegged back after a sloppy service game of his own to allow the world number 45 to level at 3-3.
However, the three-time champion in Madrid suddenly upped his intensity to take the next seven games to close out the first set and move a double break up in the second.
Bautista Agut showed some resistence to stave off two more break points to get himself on the board before breaking to close to within a game of Nadal at 4-3.
Nadal, though, upped his level again to take the final two games to round off victory in an hour and 43 minutes.
"It's been a great week for me," said Bautista Agut who will move into the world's top 30 for the first time on Monday.
"Perhaps I have the feeling that I could have played today's match a little bit better though.
"I had never played against Rafa before. I think that if I were to face him again I would do it in a different way. I was too inconsistent in the match, I had too many ups and downs and made it too easy for him at times."