Nadal to face Djokovic for a fifth Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal Monte Carlo  - Rafael Nadal escaped a late struggle from Andy Murray with a straight-sets win to reach his fifth consecutive final at the Monte Carlo Masters on Saturday with a date now looming against Novak Djokovic.

Nadal won his 26th match in a row at the venue as he secured a 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) result in well over two hours.

He has also won 30 consecutive Monte Carlo sets since the 2006 final against Roger Federer and completed his 20th straight match win on clay dating to last May in Rome.

Third seed Djokovic staved off an upset bid from Stanislas Wawrinka, defeating the Swiss 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 for a first Monte Carlo final.

"Novak is a tough opponent and he's been playing well," said Nadal. "I'll have to be on my best game in order to beat him.

"It's evicting to make another final, this is really my event and I'm really proud of my performance today."

Murray walked away pleased with his improvement if sorry for the loss.

"To beat Nadal you have to play a great match, very solid. He's the greatest clay-courter ever. I didn't start well but by the end I learned what I had to do," said the Scot who saved a match point in the eighth game of the second set before Nadal eventually clinched victory in a tiebreaker.

"I started playing properly last in the match and dictated a lot of points. My serving also picked up. "This has been a great week, since I came here with few expectations ."

Wawrinka was riding a wave of form which began as he beat Roger Federer in the third round. But the 13th seed was unable to reverse a run of four victories in their series by Djokovic.

Wawrinka won the 55-minute first set on a break but allowed the third seed back into it in the second.

The Swiss went up an early break in the third game of the third but lost it as Djokovic powered back as his comfort level rose at the Country Club.

"When I was a break up, I had the chance for 3-0 but I missed it," said Wawrinka. "Too much and too fast. He was staying on the game, and that made the difference.

"It was mainly a mental factor. I think I gave away the first two games of the set. I'm am very frustrated and disappointed. But to start the clay court season with a semi-final here is very good for me for the next tournament."

Djokovic now leads in the series 6-2 with his only two defeats against Wawrinka coming in 2006. The win was a repeat of the Rome final won by Djokovic over Wawrinka last May.

"He played well and was controlling the match," said 2008 Australian Open champion Djokovic. "But I was able to play my style in the end and that helped."

"I knew I was the favourite coming in which is why I was a bit nervous at the start," said the 26-8 winner. (dpa)