MONTE CARLO (Monaco) (AFP) - Rafael Nadal returned to the final of the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time in three years, as the eight-time champion struggled to close out a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Andy Murray on Saturday.
Nadal, who lifted the title in the principality uninterruptedly from 2005 to 2012, last lost the 2013 final to Novak Djokovic.
But Spain's fifth-seeded king of clay showed hints of the form which took him to multiple seasons of total dominance on the surface, as he overcame second seed Murray in a battle lasting for more than two and a half hours.
It was not all one-way traffic for Nadal, who spent 10 minutes in the final game between his first match points and his fifth in fighting off a late Murray charge.
The 28-year-old Murray saved four Nadal match points and had two break chances of his own, before Nadal finally drilled over a winner which the Scot could not quite handle.
Nadal, 29, who has struggled for form in the last 18 months, will bid for a ninth title on Sunday against either of the Frenchmen Gael Monfils or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.