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Djokovic Beats Berdych To Reach Final

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic is through to the Monte-Carlo final for the second time.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic reached the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final for the second time on Saturday as he battled windy conditions and an in-form Tomas Berdych to prevail 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

In the final, Djokovic will attempt to dethrone seven-time reigning champion Rafael Nadal. The Serb has won their past seven meetings, all in finals, most recently triumphing at the Australian Open in January.

"It will be the most difficult match for me in this tournament," said Djokovic. "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?"

The Serb squandered an early break lead as Berdych reeled off four straight games from 2-4 to clinch the opener. However, Djokovic struck back quickly and an early service break in the second set helped him level the match. He stepped it up in the decider, racing to a 4-0 lead before closing out victory in two hours and 42 minutes.

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"That's probably one of the most difficult conditions that I played in, in my career, really," said Djokovic. "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."

The 24-year-old Djokovic has also endured off-court sadness this week, learning on Thursday of the death of his grandfather, but is through to his third tour-level final of the year. He opened by capturing his fifth Grand Slam championship at the Australian Open (d. Nadal) and won his 30th tour-level title at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami (d. Murray).

The Belgrade native is looking to win this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament for the first time, following a runner-up effort in 2009 (l. to Nadal). He is bidding to win his 12th Masters 1000 trophy (11-7 finals record).

World No. 7 Berdych had ousted two-time semi-finalist Andy Murray in three sets in the quarter-finals and dropped to a 22-6 match record on the season. It was his ninth loss in 10 meetings with Djokovic; his lone victory coming in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2010.

"I think that the conditions were pretty tough," said the Czech player. "This kind of wind was kind of like there were circles around. You never know from where it's going to come. For my game, it was just a bit of killer because I like to play aggressive. These kinds of conditions don't help at all."

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