World number four to face unknown Frenchman who puts out local boy Nadal.
Heavyweights Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both crashed out of the Madrid Masters on Saturday leaving unheralded Frenchman Gilles Simon to face British world number four Andy Murray in the final.Unseeded Simon pulled off a fighting 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8/6) upset of world number one Nadal although the Spaniard is now guaranteed the year-end top spot courtesy of Federer's 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 loss to Murray.
The Scotsman, who lost to Federer in the US Open final six weeks ago, will be bidding for his second consecutive Masters shield after winning Cincinnati in August.
"I didn't play well on the backhand and he was playing with unbelievable confidence," said Nadal after his marathon semi-final defeat where each set lasted for more than an hour on average.
"Simon was putting all the balls inside the lines. It was disappointing not to win, it's tough to lose a match like this after a big fight. I tried my best, I'm happy with myself for that.
"I was not under any big pressure, not after the season I've had," said the winner of eight titles including Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympics.
The gutsy win in three hours, 22 minutes keeps Simon thick in the chase for a possible spot at the wrapup Masters Cup in Shanghai.
He will try to continue his run next week at Lyon and during the last week of the regular season at the Paris Masters.
Victory nudged the modest Frenchman, winner of three titles this season, into provisional ninth as four spots in the eight-man field are still to be determined over the next two weeks.
Murray fired 14 aces and broke in the penultimate game to turn the tables on Federer, improving his record in their series to 2-1 this year after a victory in Dubai during February.
"That was a great match, a top five match for me," said Murray of his performance this season. "When you play Federer or Nadal, you have a respect for them, you expect a tougher match.
"When it's close they can raise their game and they come back when they are behind."
Simon matched Nadal shot-for-shot in their slugfest, with the underdog failing to yield an inch in the struggle.
Simon gamely fought through after dropping the first as he ran the Spaniard back and forth across the court, a favourite Nadal tactic.
The French player, who saved 17 of the 22 break points he faced, produced 60 unforced errors to the 55 of Nadal.
Simon, set to play in his first career Masters final, recovered from 4-2 down in the final set and calmly took it into a tiebreaker.
He then came back from a 3-5 deficit in the decider, winning a a tense match point as a Nadal return was ruled long by the Hawk-eye electronic linecalling system.
Relief was evident for Simon, who will need a fast recovery as he faces the on-form Murray standing 1-1 in their series.
Federer said that he will play his home event from Monday in Basle after taking three weeks off broken by a return in Madrid.
"Andy served very well and returned with much more confidence than he did in New York," said the 13-times Grand Slam champion Swiss.
"It was an even match, a close match at the end. He had more opportunities in the third set. This surface plays so quick, it was a frustrating loss in some respects.
"But if someone is serving well there is not a lot you can do."