Nadal returns to Monte Carlo final, Djokovic next

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France (Sports Network) - Rafael Nadal will try for his ninth straight title at the Monte Carlo Masters and will face Novak Djokovic in Sunday's blockbuster final after both won semifinal matches on Saturday.

Nadal claimed a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) triumph over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first semifinal before Djokovic made short work of Italy's Fabio Fognini in a 6-2, 6-1 rout.

Sunday's final will be a rematch of the 2009 and 2012 title matches, won by the clay-court king. Nadal has won 46 straight matches on the red clay at Monte Carlo Country Club and is 48-1 all-time at the French Open tune-up.

Nadal needed three sets to dispose of Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov in Friday's quarterfinals, then appeared destined for an easier semifinal after a pair of breaks in the first set against Tsonga and two more in the second that gave him a comfortable 5-1 advantage.

Tsonga then fought back. He won the next four games, including two breaks of serve and three match points saved, to even the set at 5-5. He saved another match point serving at 5-6 and it eventually went to a tiebreaker.

Nadal, though, won the final four points of the tiebreaker to finally finish the French veteran.

The third-seeded Spaniard is in position to win his fourth title in five events this year, a remarkable feat coming off a seven-month layoff from knee issues. He skipped the Australian Open and made his season-debut in February in Chile, reaching the final before falling to the unheralded Horacio Zeballos.

Since that defeat, however, Nadal has won 19 straight matches with titles in Sao Paolo, Acapulco and Indian Wells to increase his total haul to 53. He won his 22nd Masters crown in Indian Wells with a victory over Juan Martin del Potro and will try for No. 23 on Sunday.

Djokovic, the Australian Open champ, lost to del Potro in the semifinals at Indian Wells and was a surprise fourth-round loser to Tommy Haas in Miami prior to this week's run. He also won in Dubai earlier this year and owns 36 career titles.

The top-seeded Serb had it easy on Saturday, disposing of Fognini in a mere 52 minutes. He did not face a break point and won 54 of the 80 points played in the match.

It will probably be a little tougher for Djokovic on Sunday in the first meeting with Nadal since last year's French Open final. Nadal won the Parisian slam for a seventh time with a 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 triumph and improved to 19-14 against Djokovic.

Nadal is 12-2 against the current world No. 1 on clay. The 2009 Monte Carlo final went three sets with Nadal claiming a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 victory, while the 2012 title match ended in just 79 minutes with a 6-3, 6-1 Nadal rout.

The 2013 Monte Carlo champion will collect $655,000.