SAO PAULO (AFP) - Rafael Nadal booked a place in the final of the Brazil Open here Saturday by downing Argentine Martin Alund in three sets.
The former world number one, who is recovering from a knee injury, battled hard to dismiss his 27-year-old semi-final opponent, winning 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 in nearly two hours.
Sunday's final will pit the 26-year-old Spanish star against Argentine David Nalbandian, who whipped Italian Simone Bolelli 6-3, 7-5 in 85 minutes in the other semi-final held earlier in the day.
Nadal is the top seed in this US$455,775 (S$563,884) tournament, his second comeback event after a seven-month absence due to his knee injury.
Last week, he competed in the Vina del Mar Open in Chile, losing the singles and doubles finals.
Alund, who is ranked 111th in the world, more than held his own against the world number five, prevailing in the second set before Nadal stepped on the gas and sealed his victory with a masterful performance in the decisive third set.
The Spaniard, who has 11 Grand Slam titles, won the Brazil Open in 2005, when it was held in Costa do Sauipe in eastern Bahia state.
Last year, the tournament was moved to Sao Paulo.
The Brazil Open is part of the Latin American clay court circuit, along with the Vina del Mar event and the Mexico Open, in Acapulco, where Nadal plans to compete later this month.
The three low-profile Latin American events are routinely ignored by the world's top three players: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.