Sunday 17 December 2017

Djokovic ready for "toughest possible challenge" against Nadal

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is ready for the "toughest challenge possible" after setting up a Monte Carlo Masters final showdown with eight-time champion Rafael Nadal.

The world number one dismissed Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-2 6-1 inside 52 minutes to book a third final meeting with his Spanish rival at the clay court event. Nadal beat the Serb in 2009 and 2012 as part of his unbeaten eight-year reign in the principality.

Today top seed Djokovic used the momentum gained from a straight-sets quarter-final victory over Jarkko Nieminen to break Fognini's serve four times while only dropping eight points on his own service.

Ahead of his 34th professional meeting with the Mallorcan, Djokovic told "Whenever you play Rafa, you know what to expect.

"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."

Fognini, meanwhile, had reached the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time after recording wins over Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet.

"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."

Belgrade-born Djokovic, 25, must beat Nadal to win his third title of the season following victories at the Australian Open and in Dubai.Nadal ensured a ninth final appearance by holding off a fightback from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Spaniard emerged victorious from a sapping test against Grigor Dimitrov in the last eight yesterday and today he was forced to come through a second-set tie-break before edging past the Frenchman 6-3 7-6 (7/3).

He said: "It's great for me to be in the final. It's fantastic news, playing five tournaments in a row after injury and being in five finals in a row is great.

"I'm very happy with 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 I did today. I have to play more aggressively.

"These kind of matches are always special. I am very happy to have the chance to play these kind of matches another time."

The Mallorcan has not lost in Monte Carlo since 2003 when he went down to Argentina's Guillermo Coria.

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