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A mouth-watering final

22 April 2012

djokovicThe top two players in the world will battle it out for the Monte Carlo Masters title on Sunday 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.

"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.

"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.

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 said.

"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."

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.

"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.

"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."

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