Hamburg:Rafael Nadal proved he is the undisputed clay-court King with a pulsating 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 win over Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic to reach the final of the Hamburg Masters Series on Saturday.
Nadal will go to Roland Garros in just over a week as world number two after setting up a re-match of last year's final against defending champion Roger Federer on Sunday.
This will be the 15th time the pair have met, but Federer has only beaten Nadal once on clay - in last year's final here when he bounced back from losing the first set to floor the Spaniard 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.
Rafael has now only lost twice on clay in four years - in last year's final here to Federer and in Rome last week to compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero.
The last of Nadal's seven wins over Federer on clay came last month in Monte Carlo when the Swiss master went down 7-5, 7-5.
In Saturday's semi-final, with not only a place in final at stake, but the world number two ranking behind Federer up for grabs, this was a titanic tussle between clay-court baron Nadal and rising star Djokovic.
Australian Open winner Djokovic has never beaten Nadal on clay in their three previous meetings on the surface, but he romped into a 3-0 lead in the first set and was a point away from extending the gap until Nadal responded.
The Spaniard fought back brilliantly with plenty of aggression and deep shots to the base-line to take the first set 7-5.
Djokovic rallied to take the second set 6-2 having powered his way into a 4-2 lead with some superb fore-hand shots.
Nadal dug deep to seize a 5-2 lead in the third set but needed five match points before he took the third set 6-2 after three hours and two minutes.
Federer earlier booked his place in the Hamburg final for the fifth time in his career after seeing off Italy's Andreas Seppi in the other semi-final.
The world number one was again untroubled, as he has been throughout this tournament, when he recorded a 6-3, 6-1 win over Seppi, ranked 43rd in the world, who had reached the last four of a Masters Series for the first time.
The Italian had his chances, but Federer never allowed him to settle and he broke the Italian's serve for the third and final time in the second set to claim the win in 79 minutes.
"It was quite a long first set and I created a lot of opportunities which wore him down for the second," said Federer on a soggy day in Hamburg where the stadium roof was closed due to persistent rain.
"The clay was quite wet and heavy, which meant it was good for the drop shots and Seppi used that tactics with some nice shots."
Having broken Nadal's 81-match winning streak, Federer said he was relishing the final having not dropped a set here so far.
He said: "I came here last year having just split with my coach and coming from Rome, I wasn't happy with my mental approach.
"I was really aggressive on my back-hand in the final, but it was a good hard match and I am sure tomorrow (Sunday) will again be good preparation for Roland Garros."