Novak Djokovic posted his fifth straight win over Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka, advancing 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 into the final of the Monte Carlo Open. The Serb will face World number one Rafael Nadal who edged Andy Murray.
REUTERS - World number one Rafael Nadal held off a late challenge from Briton Andy Murray to stay in contention for a record fifth consecutive title at the Monte Carlo Masters with a 6-2 7-6 semi-final win on Saturday.
The Spaniard, who has won his last 26 matches in the principality, will play world number three Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final after the Serb had earlier recovered to beat Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6 6-1 6-3.
"I am very happy about my match. I played much better today than the other days. So that's a good preparation for the final," Nadal told reporters.
"I think he's playing well," he added about Djokovic.
"He is having a very good tournament. Sure, I have to play my best tennis if I want to have chances to win. So I'm going to try to play aggressive and try my best.
"I know it's going to be tough, but I expect to play like today or a little bit better."
Nadal, who has not dropped a set in Monte Carlo since the 2006 final against Roger Federer, pushed the fourth-seeded Murray far behind the baseline, leaving his opponent with little opportunity to attack.
The powerful Spanish top seed opened a 4-1 lead and had three break points in the sixth game after winning nine points in a row as Murray was left gasping for air.
The Briton saved them all but Nadal wrapped up the opening set in the next game when a Murray forehand went long.
The U.S. Open finalist played more aggressively at the start of the second set but Nadal was simply too strong and would not back off, breaking in the fourth game.
Murray showed some pride in the eighth game when Nadal was serving for the match at 5-2, snatching his opponent's serve after saving a match point with a fine drop shot.
The Scot seemed transformed and, with the backing of the crowd, started to crack winners past Nadal to force a tiebreak.
But the 21-year-old could not contain the Spaniard who won the tiebreak 7-4 after a match lasting two hours eight minutes, jumping in the air with his fist clinched in celebration.
"I played very well at the end of the match. I didn't start particularly well," Murray, who was playing his first semi-final on clay, told a news conference.
"I think he's the greatest clay court player ever. At the start I made too many mistakes. I was trying to hit too many winners from the wrong position.
"Then at the end of the match I started to play properly. I played the ball, when I was out of position, very high over the net, gave myself time to recover and dictated a lot of points."
Earlier, Djokovic had to battle back against 13th seed Wawrinka, who had upset fellow Swiss and three times Monte Carlo finalist Roger Federer in the third round.
Wawrinka made the better start, taking the opening set after breaking in the ninth game at the fourth attempt, but gradually ran out of steam.
The Serb put more pressure on Wawrinka in the second set to open up a 5-0 lead. He levelled the match having made only five unforced errors while pocketing seven of his 27 points at the net.
Djokovic was caught napping at the start of the decider, with Wawrinka breaking to go 2-0 up, but the 2008 Australian Open champion then started to dictate play from the baseline, finishing off the points with timely charges to the net.
Another unforced error on the backhand by Wawrinka put Djokovic back in contention and the Serb then tightened his grip, breaking again with a stunning forehand winner in a 10-minute fifth game.
He ended Wawrinka's resistance with a forehand winner on his third match point.
Nobody has matched Nadal's performance in the Monte Carlo tournament since tennis turned professional in 1968.
Briton Reggie Doherty won the event six times, from its inception in 1897 until 1899 and from 1902 to 1904, while Australian Anthony Wilding triumphed four times in a row from 1911.
Asked whether he felt unbeatable in the principality, Nadal said: "No. Sure not."
Date created : 2009-04-18