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Grieving Djokovic faces Nadal in final

April 21, 2012 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic looks to the sky after beating world No. 7 Tomas Berdych on Saturday.
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic looks to the sky after beating world No. 7 Tomas Berdych on Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Novak Djokovic will play defending champion Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo final
  • Nadal has won the title for the past seven years, beating Djokovic in 2009
  • World No. 1 Djokovic battles to victory against seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych
  • No. 2 Nadal cruises to straight-sets win over French ninth seed Gilles Simon

(CNN) -- Novak Djokovic overcame the death of his grandfather to reach the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Masters, and the grieving world No. 1 then had to master the elements on Saturday to earn his second shot at success in the clay-court event.

The Serbian will on Sunday face second-ranked Rafael Nadal -- the reigning "King of Clay" who beat Djokovic in the 2009 final and is unbeaten in the principality in 41 matches going back to 2003.

Djokovic, whose grandfather Vladimir passed away hours before his match on Thursday, came from behind to defeat Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych 4-6 6-3 6-2 in gusty conditions in Saturday's opening semi.

"That's probably one of the most difficult conditions that I played in, in my career, really," the 24-year-old said. "It was not just the strength of the wind that was blowing, it was the changing of the direction.

"You couldn't really predict where the ball was going to come from. It was really tough. But in the end I managed to hold my nerves and play well in the third."

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Berdych, who eliminated world No. 4 Andy Murray on Friday, also struggled as he crashed to his ninth defeat in 10 meetings with Djokovic.

"This kind of wind was kind of like there were circles around. You never know from where it's going to come. For my game, it was just a bit of killer because I like to play aggressive. These kinds of conditions don't help at all," said the 2010 Wimbledon finalist.

Djokovic beat Nadal in January's six-hour Australian Open final to claim his fifth major title and set up the prospect of a "golden slam" -- unprecedented by a male player -- this year.

Djokovic aims to steal Nadal's clay crown

However, he has never won the French Open -- and the Monte Carlo final will be a big test of his aspirations to conquer all surfaces.

Nadal's victory here last year came in Djokovic's absence, and the Spaniard subsequently lost to him in Madrid and Rome before beating Roger Federer in the French Open final for a record-equaling sixth title at Roland Garros.

The 25-year-old cruised into his eighth successive Monte Carlo final with a 6-4 6-4 win over French ninth seed Gilles Simon.

It was Nadal's 37th successive semifinal win on clay since 2003, and it gave him a 20-1 career record over Simon.

Meanwhile, defending champions the Czech Republic took a commanding 2-0 lead in the women's Fed Cup semifinal against Italy on Saturday.

Lucie Safarova beat 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 in Ostrava, then world No. 3 Petra Kvitova defeated Sara Errani 6-4 6-3 to leave the home side needing only one win on Sunday.

The other semifinal is more evenly balanced, with Russia battling back to level 1-1 with Serbia in Moscow.

The Serbs, appearing in the last four for the first time, led when Jelena Jankovic beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-3.

But two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame Jankovic's fellow former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic 6-2 2-6 6-4 to give the four-time champions hope of a rematch of last year's final.

In World Group playoffs, Japan led Belgium 2-0 while the U.S. and Australia held the same advantage in their respective matches against Ukraine and Germany. The Spain-Slovakia tie was level at 1-1.

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