Grieving but believing: Djokovic sets up Monte Carlo Masters final against Nadal
19:06 GMT, 21 April 2012
The top two players in the world will
battle it out for the Monte Carlo Masters title tomorrow after
seven-time defending champion Rafael Nadal battled past Gilles Simon to
set up a mouth-watering clash with Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic saw off Tomas Berdych
earlier on Court Central before Nadal edged Simon 6-3 6-4 in two tough
sets. It will be the pair's first meeting since their epic five-set
Australian Open final in January which Djokovic won in five hours and 53
minutes – the longest-ever grand slam final.
Eyes on the prize: Novak Djokovic watches his return to Tomas Berdych
'It will be the most difficult match
for me in this tournament,' said world number one Djokovic, who has won
their last seven match-ups.
'He's the player to beat here. He's
the player to beat on clay courts. He's the best ever in the history of
the sport on this surface.
Me and my shadow: Djokovic serves to Berdych
An early break was enough to see him level matters and two more in the deciding set ended Berdych's challenge.
'That's probably one of the most difficult conditions that I played in, in my career, really,' Djokovic told www.atptour.com.
'It was not just the strength of the
wind that was blowing, it was the changing of the direction. You
couldn't really predict where the ball was going to come from. It was
really tough. But in the end I managed to hold my nerves and play well
in the third.'
Monte Carlo or bust: Djokovic celebrates after beating Berdych in their semi-final (right)
'It's the ultimate challenge. I need
to play well. I need to play well from the first to the last point. I
cannot have ups and downs. I cannot afford that against Rafa. I'm aware
of that. But why not believe that I can win'
Djokovic beat Berdych 4-6 6-3 6-2 to stay on course for his third title of 2012.
Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon
finalist, stormed back from 4-2 down to rattle off four straight games
en route to winning the first set, but Djokovic dug in in windy
conditions to prevail.
Pointing to the sky: Djokovic raises his arms aloft after reaching the final
Nadal was pushed hard by Simon but came through when it mattered, saving all seven break-points he faced.
The Spaniard was more clinical,
breaking once in each set to win in one hour and 50 minutes. Despite his
43-1 record in Monte Carlo, Nadal admitted his recent struggles against
Djokovic gave the Serbian the advantage on Sunday.
Shadow of greatness: Nadal's 43-1 record at Monte Carlo means long odds for Djokovic to overcome
'My feeling is I have much less to lose than him. I have everything to win,' said Nadal.
'That's the most important thing. That's the only positive thing about losing seven times.
Final flourish: Nadal plays a return to Gilles Simon (left) but knows that beating Djokovic will be tough
'The next match, you only have to win. You go to the match knowing that the normal thing is to lose but trying the best to change the situation. That's what I am going to try.'