Madrid:Roger Federer, the defending champion playing for his seventh title of the season, will face David Nalbandian on Sunday after the 25th-ranked Argentine beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Federer beat Nicolas Kiefer 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to advance to the Madrid Masters final.
"It's simple. If I want to win (against Federer), I have to do everything well, in attack, defence. Everything," Nalbandian said.
Nalbandian, whose previous best result this year was reaching the quarterfinals in Barcelona, won 35 of 41 first-serve points, including 22 of 25 in the second set.
Nalbandian, who gave the No 2 Rafael Nadal his worst loss in three years on Friday, saved one break point in each set against the third-ranked Serb.
"It's hard to say if this is the best I've played. I feel like new," Nalbandian said.
Federer won his 18th straight match to reach his 10th final in 13 events. He will be trying for his 15th Masters title, second only to Andre Agassi's 17.
"This one is definitely a bit more special," said Federer, who beat Nalbandian here in the semifinals last year. "We've had some tough battles over the years. He won the first five and he was the kind of player I was scared to play against."
Unable to return
Federer broke Kiefer's serve twice and was near-perfect on first serve points, winning 31-of-34 for the match, including 10 aces.
Federer, who won Masters events in Hamburg and Cincinnati this year, hasn't been broken or dropped a set after a five-week layoff since capturing his fourth straight US Open title.
The Swiss hasn't lost on indoor hard courts in nearly two years, the last defeat being against Nalbandian at the Masters Cup.
"I like playing against him, he's No 1 and I always go out thinking I can win," said Nalbandian, a former Wimbledon finalist. "Hopefully tomorrow I can come out and play the same."
Nalbandian's serve helped him in the tiebreaker, with Djokovic unable to return it on the final point.
Since rallying to beat ninth-seeded Tomas Berdych in the second round, Nalbandian hasn't dropped a set.
"He was playing better and I didn't play the way I played these first days," said Djokovic, who hit five double-faults. "It happens, sometimes you play bad and he was on the roll, and he won against Rafa and a lot of good players this week."
After saving a double-break chance in the opening game of the first set, Djokovic hit a forehand into the net to drop his service game in the third.
Djokovic, coming off a fifth title this year in Vienna, strained all match to reach the Argentine's crosscourt groundstrokes.
"I had ups and downs. I wasn't patient, I made some mistakes," Djokovic said. "He was aggressive and in some moments when I should have been more aggressive, I wasn't ."
In the fifth game of the second set, both players reached crosscourt shots that looked out of reach before Djokovic came to the net and pinned Nalbandian back with a volley.
But the Argentine hit a lob winner that Djokovic applauded.
"I stayed firm throughout and when I had to pressure him I did," Nalbandian said.
Djokovic, the US Open finalist who won Masters titles in Miami and Montreal this year, set up a break chance in the 12th game after consecutive forehands forced Nalbandian into poor shots.
But the Serb spun a forehand wide of the line as Nalbandian held for the tiebreaker.
"I felt really exhausted and it hit me after a long two weeks. Obviously, I wasn't as fresh today as I could be," Djokovic said.
Kiefer stuck with his serve-and-volley game despite being broken in the third game of the opening set, scoring 20 at the front.
The 112th-ranked German worked to hold his serve through the second until Federer finally prevailed in the ninth.