Monte Carlo: Novak Djokovic takes a seven-match win streak in finals into Sunday's Monte Carlo Masters title showdown with Rafael Nadal where he hopes to shatter the Spaniard's dream of an epic eighth straight trophy. (Agencies)
Top seed Djokovic battled into his second career final in the principality on Saturday, overcoming a stiff challenge from Czech sixth-seed Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Nadal extended his winning run at Monte Carlo, which dates back to 2005, to 41 victories in a row by defeating French ninth-seed Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-4, finishing his semifinal with a scorching forehand winner on the first of three match points.
Djokovic, the world number one who has played on despite the death of his grandfather in Serbia this week, won his most recent match against Nadal two and a half months ago in an Australian Open final which lasted just short of six hours.
Both of Saturday's semifinals were played in wind swirling off the choppy Mediterranean just a few metres from centre court at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
"They were probably some of the most difficult conditions I've played on in my career," said Djokovic, entering his 45th ATP final.
"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 is going to come. In the end I managed to hold my nerve and play well in the third."
Berdych, who put out third seed Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, stole the first set in 65 minutes as Djokovic looked understandably lethargic.
After leading 4-2, he lost the next four games, steadied, but still went down in the opener.
The Serb, who did not play the event a year ago, managed to recover from then on as he handled the conditions well as Berdych's level dropped.
Djokovic saved two break points to start the second set, then went up a double break in the final set before Berdych managed to hold, 1-4 before advancing on his first match point.
"In the first game I saved the break points," said Djokovic. "After that I tried to encourage myself and be positive on the court.
"There was a change of momentum when I made a break (for 2-0). Then I felt more comfortable, more confident hitting the ball, other than just defending. That was the turning point probably."
The Czech dropped to 2-13 against world number one players, with his two wins coming over Roger Federer.
"The wind doesn't help my game, but it's the same for both of us," said Berdych. "In the first set, beginning of the second set, I had a feeling I was beating him in the rallies.
"But I didn't keep with the change of conditions and that was probably the difference."
Monte Carlo: Novak Djokovic takes a seven-match win streak in finals into Sunday's Monte Carlo Masters title showdown with Rafael Nadal where he hopes to shatter the Spaniard's dream of an epic eighth straight trophy.