Rafael Nadal will meet fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters here after overcoming Andy Murray, who was increasingly hampered by a right elbow injury, 6-4 2-6 6-1.
The first two sets delivered enthralling tennis with both players producing some outrageous shots before Nadal picked up his game and ran away with the decider, during which Murray called for treatment on his troublesome arm from the trainer, in a match lasting just under three hours.
Earlier it had been questionable whether Murray would be able to start the match even when he required an injection for an arm injury which was causing him pain when he served. He was granted time to take a hitting test before appearing on court, causing a 21-minute delay to the start.
"I didn't know I'd be able to play until five to three," said Murray, who has now lost 10 of 14 matches with Nadal. "I had a cortisone injection and local anaesthetic. I've never had a problem with my elbow before. I'm happy I gave it my best but I think I can do better."
Nadal served as the match got under way but Murray soon brought up double break point with a cross-court shot which Nadal put into the net. The Spaniard then netted again for the Scot to claim a break in the first game. However, a Murray volley which went wide gave Nadal a chance to break straight back, which he gleefully accepted before holding his own serve and breaking again to lead 3-1.
The see-saw nature of the first set continued as, after holding his own serve for 2-4, Murray then dominated the seventh game and rapidly earned triple break point. Murray netted the first and put the second wide before Nadal sent the ball into the tramlines with Murray reducing the deficit to 4-3.
An eighth game lasting more than 14 minutes saw Murray eventually hold to level the match a 4-4.
Nadal held for Murray to serve to stay in the set but the Scot put a backhand into the net on yet another break point for the Spanish World No 1 to seal the set 6-4 in Nadal's favour.
There was no let up in the intensityof the play in a pulsating second set. Nadal held and a marathon game saw Murray haul himself level, before he earned break point in the next game and went ahead when Nadal went long. The fourth game of the set proved the longest of the match, lasting 19 minutes with Murray saving now fewer than five break points before he finally prevailed with a vicious forehand.
Murray then looked ready to run away with the set as with a perfect drop shot at the net took him to 4-1. Nadal showed just why he has won six Monte Carlo titles in a row by immediately breaking back. But Murray was in a dominant mood and immediately broke Nadal again.
Murray's injury seemed to have tightened during the break between sets and Nadal immediately jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Scot called for treatment.
Nadal sensed his chance to close out the match and fired in some brutal shots as Murray faltered. Murray did manage to break for 4-1, but Nadal broke straight back and he eased to triple match point, Murray going long.