Rafael Nadal displaced Fabio Fognini, 6-1, 7-5, and set the stage for a blockbuster 37th installment of his rivalry with Roger Federer.
A Nadal-Federer final would be their third clash of the season following Federer’s epic five-set victory in the Australian Open final and a commanding conquest in the Indian Wells fourth round earlier this month.
Bursting out of the box quickly, Nadal outhustled the first-time Miami semifinalist from the start. Fognini opened the fourth game with a double fault. Then another errors followed and the Italian dropped serve at love. An energized Nadal ripped through the following game confirming the break for 4-1.
Often reduced to teetering lunges, Fognini let a lead slip in the sixth game. The former Australian Open doubles champion knows his way around the front court, but Fognini was out of step slapping a bounce smash into the bottom of the net as Nadal broke again for 5-1.
After a bathroom break, Fognini returned to court hitting his serve with a bit more conviction. Nevertheless, confident Nadal raced through seven straight points earning triple break point in the third game. Fognini managed to hold for 2-1, but his opponent continued pressing and strengthening his game.
Though the Italian made a push in the second set, he watched in dismay as he made his sixth double fault and handing the break and a 6-5 lead to Nadal. Swatting his seventh ace, the Spaniard drew a forehand for triple break point.
One final twisting serve capped a 90-minute victory that puts the 14-time Grand Slam champion within one win of his first title since Barcelona last April.