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Nadal Overcomes Tsonga Fightback To Reach Final

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is one win away from a ninth successive Monte-Carlo title.

One day after passing a stern test against Grigor Dimitrov, Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided another third set as he held off an inspired late fightback from French No. 1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to prevail 6-3, 7-6(3) in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters semi-finals.

On Sunday, Nadal will face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in a repeat of the 2012 and 2009 finals.

"It's great for me to be in the final," said Nadal. "It's fantastic news, playing five tournaments in a row after injury, being in five finals in a row is great. I'm very happy for everything. We'll see tomorrow. It will be very tough. 

"[Djokovic] brings you to the limit of your game if you want to have chances to win.  I know I have to play better than what I did today and yesterday to try to win tomorrow. I have to play more aggressive. These kind of matches are special all the time. I am very happy to have the chance to play these kind of matches another time."

The Spaniard fought off an early challenge from Tsonga, saving three break points in the fourth game of the first set. From that point he looked in control of the match. In windy conditions, Tsonga struggled with his timing and was hindered by a spate of unforced errors. Nadal broke in the fifth and ninth games to clinch the opener, and an early break in the second set put him on the path to a 5-1 lead.

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At that point, Tsonga staged a last stand. Going for his shots and attacking the net, the Le Mans native recovered one of the breaks for 2-5 and rallied from 0/40 in the following game, saving three match points to get to 3-5. Even breaking a string could not throw off Tsonga. The Frenchman hit a deft backhand drop shot to earn 15/40 in the ninth game and although he was denied the break with two aces, was presented with a third chance as Nadal hit a forehand long and another uncharacteristic error from the Spaniard gifted Tsonga the break.

Tsonga faced a fourth match point on serve at 5-6 as he pushed a backhand long to trail 30/40, but was reprieved as Nadal miscued a backhand wide and the set went to a tie-break. Nadal seized control with a pin-point accurate forehand passing shot up the line to lead 4-3 and from there did not relinquish another point, claiming victory in one hour and 36 minutes.

"I always try to be aggressive when I play him," said Tsonga. "It's the only way for me. If I stay back, there's no way I can win. So I tried to do that. It is better to make it difficult for him like I did today in the end because then I can think maybe next time, if the conditions are better, I might do better. 

Tsonga"It's been a very good tournament because in the beginning of this season I had ups and downs, so now I feel I have a good rhythm and I'm on a roll. I really feel eager to practise a lot. It's the best time of the year for me."

Nadal improved to an 8-4 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Tsonga and to a 58-6 mark against Top 10 players on clay.

The 26-year-old Nadal is going for his ninth title in a row at the Monte-Carlo Country Club and has a staggering 48-1 event record. The Mallorcan has not lost at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament since his 2003 debut.

Nadal is bidding to win his fourth title in five events this year, since his comeback from a seven-month injury lay-off in February. Should he succeed, he would lift his 23rd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy, having won his 22nd last month at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (d. del Potro).

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