Nadal piled on the pressure in game 10 to earn two set points on Dimitrov's serve, snatching the second to go a set up.
Nadal came through a tight first set but always looked too strong for Dimitrov and raced through the second in less than half an hour. Despite a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 win against Grigor Dimitrov, he has a pressing concern given how quickly he is texting.
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However, a let up in his energy at the business end of the set cost Dimitrov dearly, Nadal taking advantage to break - another pinpoint forehand sealing a 1-0 lead. He said his wrist remains a "little bit sore".
Each player saved two break points in their first service games of the decider before Nishikori steadied himself to convert a match point in the 10th game and book a place in the final. They were to play their quarterfinal later Friday. Nadal has won 11 straight matches on clay court.
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Nishikori has never won a Masters and last reached a final two years ago in Montreal. Djokovic chose to enter the tournament following his the third round Monte Carlo exit at the hands of Dominic Thiem.
"I really don't care if I am favourite or I am not favourite", said Nadal, after beating Dimitrov for the 11th time in 12 meetings.
"In the second set, he started to miss more", Nadal said modestly. He made consecutive double faults and hit a wild forehand long to trail 15-40.
The 26-year-old Bulgarian got the better of a nervy Goffin in a repeat of last year's ATP Tour Finals final, coming back from 5-1 down in the second set to secure a match against Nadal.
The top seed is bidding for an outright record 31st Masters title this week and extended his run of consecutive sets won on clay to 34 as he closed on a third consecutive Monte Carlo title.