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By Erik Gudris

Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic hits a backhand in Monte-Carlo

(April 21, 2012) As Novak Djokovic continues to struggle with the death of his grandfather earlier this week, it was the gusty wind blowing off of the ocean that appeared to cause him more problems than his opponent Tomas Berdych in today's semifinals at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

Even after Djokovic went up an early break in the first set, he never appeared comfortable on Court Centrale as sudden gusts of wind would blow red clay into his eyes. Dropping his serve in the next game, an angry Djokovic bounced his racquet onto the court. Berdych, through steady play especially on his backhand side, took advantage of Djokovic's malaise. With an inside out forehand winner, Berdych broke serve to go up 5-4 and eventually closed out the set.

But when Djokovic went up an early break of serve in the second set, it seemed to calm him as he opened up a quick 4-1 lead. Berdych in the meantime began to commit more errors and appeared to have lost his fine form of the first set. Djokovic saved all four break points against him and went ahead to claim the second set 6-3.

As the final set commenced, it was Djokovic who dug in both mentally and physically as he started to swing out more on his groundstrokes. An aggressive crosscourt forehand winner set up an early break point for the top seed that he then converted with another forehand winner. Now it was Berdych who was voicing his discontent at the windy conditions as the Czech soon went down a double break of serve.

Facing a 1-5 deficit, Berdych held serve to at least force Djokovic to serve out the match and with the help of another Berdych error, Djokovic did so claiming a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win in a gritty near three hour battle.

Despite both men hitting more errors than winners, Berdych's inability to convert on his break point chances, two of ten for the day, ended up being the most telling stat of the match.

Djokovic now enters the finals of Monte-Carlo for the second time in his career, but even he admitted afterwards he wasn't sure how he would play this week considering his personal loss.

"Under the circumstances I didn't know if I could reach the final this week," Djokovic said. "I'll always give my best, and I'm always believing I can win every match I play."

Djokovic will now face Rafael Nadal in tomorrow's final. The Spaniard is seeking his eighth consecutive title at the event.



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