HAMBURG, Germany (REUTERS) - Rafa Nadal made light work of Italian Andreas Seppi to reach the final of the Hamburg Open on Saturday and will now face Fabio Fognini, who is chasing an almost unthinkable third claycourt victory over the Spaniard this season.
Nadal, a 14-times grand slam champion, has endured a difficult year, surrendering his French Open title, suffering a shock defeat by journeyman Dustin Brown at Wimbledon and dropping to No. 10 in the rankings.
He has struggled since being sidelined by injury and illness last year and has only two relatively modest titles to his name in 2015 - Stuttgart and Buenos Aires.
For a player who has made a habit of hoovering up claycourt trophies in his career, he heads into Sunday's final looking to maintain his record of winning at least one European claycourt title every year since 2004.
Having eased past Seppi 6-1 6-2 in 80 minutes, Nadal will face Fognini for the third time this season with the Italian claiming wins in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.
Fognini, ranked 32nd in the world, is just the second player to inflict multiple claycourt defeats on Nadal in a single season after world number one Novak Djokovic.
The Italian, who won the Hamburg title in 2013, beat French qualifier Lucas Pouille 6-2 7-6(2) on Saturday to reach the final.