The Italian Open will get its dream men's final on Sunday after Rafa Nadal's routine cuffing of Grigor Dimitrov set up an enticing match with Novak Djokovic that could be a barometer for the French Open.
Top seed Nadal has struggled through much of the tournament but was far too good for dogged Dimitrov, the Spaniard quickly powering to a 6-2 6-2 victory and a showdown with world number two Djokovic.
Serb Djokovic survived a three-hour dogfight and one-set deficit with big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic to make Sunday's final. He was subjected to an onslaught of power but eventually came through to win 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-3.
"It's a big win because it gives me strength and belief that I can hopefully carry towards the final and the rest the season," Djokovic, bidding for a third Rome title, said.
"I can't remember the last time I felt so helpless in a return game. I couldn't predict his serve at all."
In the women's event world number one Serena Williams gained revenge for her Australian Open fourth round defeat by Ana Ivanovic, beating the Serb 6-1 3-6 6-1 to set up a final against local favourite Sara Errani.