Monte Carlo – Novak Djokovic battled into his second career final at the Monte Carlo Masters on Saturday, overcoming a stiff challenge from Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The world No 1 who has played on despite learning of the death of his grandfather in Serbia this week, will await an opponent from seven-time champion Rafael Nadal and ninth seed Gilles Simon, the first Frenchman in the semis since Richard Gasquet in 2005.
Djokovic again found the strength to struggle, improving his record over Czech sixth seed Berdych to 9-1. Djokovic lost the final here in 2009 to Nadal, who has won the last seven editions.
“It was quite a match,” said Djokovic. “There were lots of unforced errors in really, really difficult conditions. The wind was blowing very hard, changing directions all the time.
“We had a lot of double-faults. Tomas tosses very high on serve which didn't help and I didn't serve so well either. It was a matter of who would be better-positioned on court and who got luckier.
“I was that player in the end.”
The Czech stole the first set in 65 minutes as Djokovic looked understandably lethargic. After leading 4-2 he lost the next four games, steadied, but still went down in the opener.
The Serb who did not play the event a year ago, managed to recover from then on as he handled the conditions well as the Berdych level dropped.
Djokovic saved two break points to start the second set, showing his intentions not to roll over. He then went up a double break in the final set before Berdych managed to hold, 1-4 before advancing on his first match point.
The Czech dropped to 2-13 against world number one players, with his wins coming over Roger Federer at the 2004 Olympics and in Miami two years ago.
Djokovic reached his 45th ATP final (30-14) and will be playing in his 19th at the Masters 1000 level.
Nadal remains dominant on clay and will be bidding for a 41st straight win at Monte Carlo and 37th in a row at a semi-final after losing his last in 2003 at Umag to Carlos Moya. – Sapa-AFP