World number two Rafael Nadal battled to a scrappy 7-6, 6-3 win over Briton Andy Murray on Saturday to set up a Toronto Masters final against resurgent German Nicolas Kiefer.
Nadal, playing his first event since his epic win over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, has made a smooth transition from grass to the North American hardcourts.
The Spaniard's victory stretched his winning streak to 28 matches and left him on course for a fifth consecutive title following wins at Wimbledon, Queen's, Roland Garros and Hamburg.
"My only expectation is to try and play a good match tomorrow, and if possible win the title," Nadal, who won his first career hardcourt title in Canada in 2005, told reporters.
"I said when I arrive here I don't think about number one, I don't think about the hardcourt season or U.S. Open or Olympics, I think about Toronto.
"Toronto is very important tournament. It's the first big tournament on hard after the clay and grass court season, so my goal is try to play a good tournament here."
Standing in Nadal's way is the experienced Kiefer, who outlasted in-form Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-7 6-3 7-6 to continue his bid for his first ATP title since 2000.
In four career meetings, Murray had never beaten Nadal but appeared eager to put that right, matching the muscular Spaniard, shot-for-shot during a tense opening set that failed to produce a break.
Nadal dominated the tiebreak 7-2 after which Murray called for the trainer and had his right knee taped.
The Briton continued to battle in the second until Nadal took control, sweeping through the last three games.
The 31-year-old Kiefer needed all his experience and three hours to beat his 23-year-old opponent, who has had a superb start to the North American hardcourt season.
Simon arrived in Toronto after winning the Indianapolis title and was on a run of nine victories including a second-round upset of world number one Roger Federer.
Once ranked as high as world number four, Kiefer has produced some of his old form in Toronto, knocking out seeds Nikolay Davydenko, James Blake and Mikhail Youzhny on his way to the semi-finals.
"It was a very close match, it's not easy to play against him, we have the same game," said Kiefer after reaching his first Masters final. "He has been on a run. he won in Indianapolis and a few good wins here.
"All I could do was fight for every point.