Djokovic improves to 31-0; Nadal awaits Madrid final

Rafael Nadal celebrates victory over Roger Federer after their Madrid Open match on May 7, 2011....

Rafael Nadal celebrates victory over Roger Federer after their Madrid Open match on May 7, 2011. (REUTERS/Juan Medina)

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, Last Updated: 5:32 PM ET

Madrid, Spain - Soaring Serb Novak Djokovic rallied past Thomaz Bellucci in Saturday's semifinals at the $4.202 million Madrid Masters to stay perfect on the season.

Djokovic fought back from a set down to defeat Bellucci of Brazil 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in just over two hours at the Magic Box. World No. 2 Djokovic has started the 2011 campaign with 31 straight wins.

Djokovic's winning streak is the longest to start an ATP season since John McEnroe opened his 1984 campaign at 42-0. Bjorn Borg also won his first 33 matches in 1980.

The amazing run includes five titles, as the Serbian star followed up his Australian Open crown with tournament wins at Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and Belgrade.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal awaits Djokovic in the title match, and the Spaniard brings a streak of his own into the final.

Nadal rallied for yet another win over arch-rival Roger Federer in the first semifinal match on Saturday.

Nadal dropped the first set on the red clay, but stormed back to earn a 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Federer.

It marked the 24th meeting between the two men that have combined to win 25 Grand Slam titles. Nadal improved to 16-8 in the series, including a dominant 11-2 mark on clay.

This was also the third meeting in as many years in Madrid, although the last two had come in the final. Nadal beat Federer for last year's title after the Swiss superstar took the championship in 2009.

Nadal came out with a break of Federer's serve to start the match, but Federer broke back to even the set at 4-4. He broke again in the 12th game to capture the set, but Nadal roared back.

Federer again had his serve broken to start the second set and Nadal went on to win the first four games of the set. Federer managed one hold in the fifth game, but Nadal held and came up with his third break of the set to finish it.

Nadal gained just two break points in the third set, but converted both and saved the only break point he faced against his own serve. He broke Federer for a 3-1 lead and again in the final game to close it out.

Federer, who also won the Madrid crown in 2006 in addition to his 2009 title, was trying to break a lengthy Nadal winning streak on clay for the third time. He stopped the Spaniard's 81-match clay run in the 2007 Hamburg title match, then ended his 33-match string with the title at this event in 2009. Nadal now owns a streak of 37 straight clay wins heading into Sunday's final.

Nadal leads the all-time series with Djokovic by a 16-9 count, but the Serb has beaten Nadal in the finals at Indian Wells and Miami this year.

The Spaniard will be gunning for his 46th career title on Sunday and his third this year. He captured the Monte Carlo and Barcelona crowns in his last two starts and owns a career mark of 45-15 in finals. In addition to the 2010 Madrid title, he also won the event in 2005.

"For me to start the clay season with two victories and now a final in the third tournament, which may be less favorable for me, is a very good result," Nadal said. "I have to make the extra effort and tomorrow will be an important match. The fact that I am playing at home is special and well its another final at an [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 [tournament] and I will fight until the end.

"I've got the illusion of winning, of playing a good game, the illusion of being competitive, as I always do when I go out to win a match. I'm very much aware that in the last two finals against him I lost and maybe the conditions suit him a bit more now because of that. Here I think the conditions here are a bit more in his favor. I plan to accept this and all the difficulties that will surely be there and accept that this is going to be a very complicated match that I could lose even playing well."

Djokovic owns a career record of 23-13 in title matches.

Prior to the start of Saturday's play, a moment of silence was observed to honor Spanish golf legend Seve Ballesteros, who died early Saturday morning after a battle with brain cancer.

This week's winner will collect $874,000.


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