Ferrer sets up Nadal title tilt

World No 1 rallies past Murray

World number one Nadal, who lost to Ferrer in the Australian Open quarterfinals, broke for 3-1 in the first set when shaggy-haired Murray sent a booming shot long but the Briton hit back in the seventh game only to lose the set's final act.

Determined third seed Murray refused to lie down and a superb crosscourt backhand gave him the fourth game of the second set after nearly 20 minutes of slugging before breaks of serve were exchanged three times and the Scot took the set.

Nadal though raced to a 4-0 lead in the third as Murray tired and needed treatment on an arm injury before succumbing.

Fourth seed Ferrer roared back from a shaky start to cruise through with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Roger Federer's quarterfinal conqueror Juergen Melzer. Melzer broke early for 2-1 as Ferrer struggled with his first serve but the Austrian inexplicably let his opponent back in by losing his serve twice, with a double fault effectively sealing his fate in the first set.

Bandana-wearing Ferrer, bidding for a 12th career title and third this year, extended his record over Melzer to four wins in six meetings after the seventh seed was broken to love in the fifth game of the second set before losing his serve again.

The world number six produced a succession of powerful winners to delight the crowd and the latecomers, who clambered up the galleries looking for rare empty seats as Friday's windy conditions were quickly forgotten thanks to bright sunshine.

The Monte Carlo Country Club will host a second successive all-Spanish final fiesta on Sunday after Nadal set a men's open era record with a sixth title in a row at the same event by beating Fernando Verdasco here last year.

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