Key Biscayne, FL – Novak Djokovic moved into the final at the $3.973 million Sony Ericsson Open with a two-set win over Juan Monaco, while Andy Murray secured a berth in the title tilt when Rafael Nadal pulled out of their scheduled semifinal Friday.
The defending champion and top-seeded Djokovic won the first set in 27 minutes, but then held off his Argentine opponent, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) in a two- hour battle under the lights on the hardcourts at Crandon Park.
The reigning Australian Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion Djokovic beat Nadal in last year's final and also won this title in 2007.
The second-seeded Nadal was forced to withdraw on Day 10 because of a knee injury. He was coming off a three-set victory against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
"I have problems on the left knee," Nadal stated. "I have to go to the doctor, but it looks like it's nothing really, really different that's happened a few times in the past. Hopefully in a few days, with a few days off and with the right treatment, I will be in the right condition to start to practice on the clay."
After cruising in the first set, Djokovic won three straight games to take a 4-2 lead in the second. He even fought back from a 0-40 deficit and saved three break points to take a 5-3 edge, but Monaco battled back and finally broke serve after Djokovic saved the first seven break point opportunities.
A return into the net brought the match to 5-5 and Monaco earned a tough hold, finishing with an ace for a 6-5 lead.
But in the tiebreak, his return into the net gave the Serbian a 5-3 lead. Monaco later saved one match point, but a long return gave Djokovic a 5-0 lifetime mark against his semifinal opponent and a spot in the final against Murray.
The 24-year-old British star will appear in his 33rd career ATP final, seeking a 23rd championship. He's 1-1 in his 2012 finals, with a title coming in Brisbane and a runner-up spot coming in Dubai.
Djokovic, who is after his second championship this year and 30th of his career, holds a 7-5 all-time lead over Murray. The two have split a pair of meetings this year. Djokovic rallied for a five-set win in the semifinals of the Australian Open, while Murray triumphed in two sets in a similar round in Dubai.
It will be their third meeting in Miami. Djokovic gave up just one game in a semifinal victory in 2007 before Murray won in straight sets in the 2009 title match.
The former Miami champion Murray advanced to Sunday's final with the walkover, something that could benefit him.
"I don't really know how I'm gonna feel for the final, but I'll definitely be fresh," Murray said.
Nadal has never won the Masters event in Miami, finishing as the runner-up on three different occasions.
Now, Nadal hopes to rest to start his claycourt season April 16 at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The 2012 Miami champ will collect $659,775.