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Djokovic To Face Nadal After Dismissing Fognini

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic will contest the Monte-Carlo final for the third time.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will attempt to dethrone eight-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final after dismissing Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday in the semi-finals.

Djokovic and Nadal also contested the final at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in 2009 and 2012. Nadal was extended to three sets in 2009, but dropped only four games in last year’s clash. It will be their 34th meeting (Nadal leads 19-14) and their first since the 2012 Roland Garros final, when Nadal won in four sets.

"Whenever you play Rafa, you know what to expect," said Djokovic. "You expect the toughest challenge possible on clay. I'm ready for that. I'm very happy that physically, mentally, emotionally I have been improving as the tournament was going on. Each day I feel better on the court, more confident. 

"Of course, I will have to be on top of my game. I will have to be focused and motivated from the start to the end in order to have any chance of winning against Nadal. I need to have a very optimistic mindset in order to get a win. I'm not going out there to play my best; I'm going out there to win. That's how I'm going to feel tomorrow."

Fognini had embarked on a career-best run to reach the semi-finals of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament for the first time. The Sanremo native recorded back-to-back Top 10 wins over Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet, but came unstuck against Djokovic, who has well and truly found his form on the clay after a slow start.

The top-seeded Serb prevailed in just 52 minutes, breaking serve four times and surrendering only eight points on serve. It was his fifth win in five meetings with the No. 32-ranked Fognini. Djokovic began the tournament under a cloud of uncertainty, having twisted his ankle two weeks ago on Davis Cup duty in the United States, and was pushed to three sets in his first two matches before hitting his stride with a straight-sets win over Jarkko Nieminen in the quarter-finals.

"For me it was important to step on the court and get control of the match," reflected Djokovic. "That's what I did right away. I was aggressive. I knew what I wanted to do.  I knew I wanted to stay as short as possible on the court to get quick points. I played really, really well. He made a lot of unforced errors, which helped me to win."

"I beat two Top 10 [players] in the same week," said Fognini. "I just have to say in my first semi-final I was a little bit tight, the conditions didn't help me a lot, and he played the best match of his week. And then, of course, I didn't play really well, my best tennis."

The 25-year-old Djokovic is bidding to win his third title of the season, following victories at the Australian Open (d. Murray) and Dubai (d. Berdych). The Belgrade native is looking to win his 14th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown. 

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