Top seed David Ferrer outclassed unseeded Colombian Santiago Giraldo at the Heineken Open in Auckland on Friday to set up a title decider with in-form Argentinian David Nalbandian.
Ferrer, the champion here in 2007, fought off a second set comeback from Giraldo to win 6-3, 7-5, while Nalbandian crushed second seed Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-2 to reach the final without dropping a set during the tournament.
Ferrer’s experience proved decisive against an opponent playing his first semi-final on tour, as the world number seven capitalised on Giraldo’s mistakes.
“I played very well, maybe my best match this week,” he said.
The Colombian, spurred on by the crowd, remained on even terms until the eighth game, when three unforced errors gifted Ferrer a break that allowed the Spaniard to take the first set after 34 minutes.
Giraldo came back from a break down in the second, growing in confidence as he attacked the net, but Ferrer held his nerve to set up three break points at 6-5, claiming victory after the Colombian sent a backhand return wide.
Ferrer can expect a tougher challenge against former world number three Nalbandian, who was in control for the entire match against Almagro, producing a clinical display that left the Spaniard rattled.
“He played an amazing, unbelievable match against Almagro but I’ll try to do my best and fight a lot,” said Ferrer.
The Argentinian, currently ranked 27 and aiming to rejoin the game’s elite following hip surgery in 2009, showed signs of the form that took him to four Grand Slam semi-finals and a losing appearance in the 2002 Wimbledon final.
He attacked from the outset against Almagro, continually wrong-footing the world number 14 with fading drop shots and tightly angled returns.
“It’s been a good week for me, I think I’ve played good,” said the 29-year-old.”
Nalbandian’s form in Auckland will give him a confidence boost ahead of his Australian Open first round clash with hometown favourite Lleyton Hewitt, who defeated him in the 2002 Wimbledon decider.
The Argentinian did not allow Almagro to find any rhythm, maintaining pressure on the Spaniard’s misfiring serve to go up a break in the ninth game of the first set.
Nalbandian broke again in the first game of the second set and was rewarded with another break for a 5-2 lead, completing the win in 85 minutes.