April 20, 2012
Djokovic, Nadal charge into Monte Carlo semis
By SPORTS NETWORK
ROQUEBRUNE-CAP-MARTIN, FRANCE - World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and reigning seven-time champion Rafael Nadal were easy quarterfinal victors Friday at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The 2009 runner-up Djokovic improved to 23-2 this year by handling Dutchman Robin Haase 6-4, 6-2 on the red clay at the famed Monte Carlo Country Club. The break-filled match featured seven service breaks by the super Serb.
Djokovic, who will now appear in his fifth semifinal in five events so far this season, won here on Thursday just hours after learning about the death of his grandfather.
"It's been a tough week, but this is life," Djokovic said. "His spirit will always be with me."
"It's tough to be able to play tennis after the way I felt and the way I still feel," Djokovic added. "I remember him as a great man, and I know he's been supporting me and still from the heavens now."
The reigning Australian Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon champ's semifinal opponent on Saturday will be sixth-seeded Czech slugger and former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych.
The second-seeded former No. 1 Nadal, meanwhile, handled unseeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 7-5, 6-4, as Wawrinka could manage only one break of serve in the predictable defeat.
The clay-court stalwart Nadal won an Open Era-record seventh consecutive title here last year and is now a staggering 42-1 lifetime in Monte Carlo, including wins in his last 40 matches. He topped David Ferrer in last year's all-Spanish finale.
Nadal and Roger Federer are the all-time leaders with 19 Masters titles apiece.
The former No. 1 Nadal, seeking his first title of any kind since capturing last year's French Open, will meet Frenchman Gilles Simon in the final four on Saturday.
The aforementioned Berdych came from behind to upend third-seeded world No. 4 British star Andy Murray 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-3 in 2 hours, 48 minutes. Berdych broke the three-time Grand Slam finalist Murray five times on Day 6, while the Scot settled for only one break in the setback.
"He played very, very well today," Murray said. "Every time I lose a match, I get asked, 'What did you do wrong?' Sometimes the guy plays well. He played extremely well today. He dictated a lot of the points, he went for his shots, he served very well."
Murray was a Monte Carlo semifinalist two of the previous three years here.
Berdych will meet Djokovic for a 10th time, with the high-flying Serb holding a commanding 8-1 lead in their lifetime series, including wins in their last six meetings.
The ninth-seeded Simon setup his date with Nadal by ousting fourth-seeded fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 6-4 in Friday's nightcap. Simon and Tsonga were part of the French team which was upset by the United States in a Davis Cup quarterfinal at the Monte Carlo Country Club two weeks ago.
Simon will meet Nadal for a sixth time, with the Spaniard holding a 4-1 lead in their all-time series, with all five previous matches coming on hardcourts.
The 2012 winner of this $3.2 million Masters event will collect $603,000.