Rafael Nadal is on course for an 11th Monte Carlo Masters title, as he breezed past Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-1 in Saturday's semi-final.
Following an even start to the contest, the top seed upped the ante and produced some of his best tennis of the tournament to take the game away from the Bulgarian. At this juncture, it's difficult to see who can stop Nadal from going all the way once again.
Kei Nishikori will be the man to attempt the feat after he rallied from behind to beat Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and seal his first appearance in a Masters final since the Canadian Open two years ago.
The Japanese star had wrist surgery several months ago and has had to reinstate his presence on the elite circuit of late, but he'll be facing the best.
Here is the result in full from the first semi-final and a closer look at how Nadal booked his spot in yet another Monte Carlo showpiece.
(1) Rafael Nadal bt. (4) Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-1
(3) Alexander Zverev vs. Kei Nishikori, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Nadal in Control in Monte Carlo
To get past Nadal on clay is a massive challenge for any player, and if the Spaniard is at his best, there's little to be done about it.
The top seed, who has been supreme in Monaco so far, was in one of his ominous grooves early on, as he broke Dimitrov's serve at the first time of asking and consolidated to take a 3-0 lead.
As tennis journalist Jose Morgado relayed, there wasn't much the fourth seed could do in the first exchanges:
Yet the Bulgarian clung on, and after getting his first game on the board, he became the second player to take a game on the Nadal serve at the tournament. He then levelled at 3-3.
Even so, Nadal continued to apply pressure to his opponent's serve, and after three games went with serve, he gave himself two set points. After letting the first go, a brilliant forehand winner down the line handed the Spaniard the opener.
There was a clear drop in intensity from Dimitrov at the start of the second set. Nadal was ruthless in capitalising, winning the first four games and giving the fourth seed a mountain to climb.
After six games in succession for Nadal, Dimitrov avoided a bagel in the second set, although it was just staving off the inevitable. As noted by Team FA, Nadal is enjoying an indomitable run on this surface:
Nishikori has lost in nine of his 11 career meetings with Nadal, but he did emerge as victor in their most recent clash at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Zverev, the No. 3 seed, proved no small task with a 6-3 win in the opening set, the German having success in tying his opponent up in the far corners, as Tennis TV relayed:
But Zverev's service game deteriorated rapidly in the second and third sets—or perhaps it was Nishikori's return game's improvement—as he won only nine of the 31 points from his second serve, per ProTennisLive.com.
Nishikori ended the match by breaking Zverev at the end of a two-game swing, and tennis commentator David Law hailed his quick turnaround after right wrist surgery:
Writer Nick Nemeroff highlighted prior to the semi-finals that Nishikori would be the optimum match for Nadal, with the test scheduled for Sunday:
When quizzed on the condition of his right wrist in the post-match press conference, Nishikori said it was "getting there" before assessing the daunting opposition coming his way: "He's been dominating crazy this week. On clay he's the king."
Nishikori hasn't taken long to return to battling with the sport's brutes, and he'll have to usurp the throne from the king himself if he's to end his streak of losing Masters finals.