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Djokovic, Nadal to clash

AP

Winning a game against Novak Djokovic these days is quite an achievement. Even when you’re an U.S. Open champion.

Djokovic won the first eight games of his Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinal match Friday before Marin Cilic managed to hold his serve, raising a thumb in the air to celebrate.

The momentum change was short-lived, though, with the top-ranked Djokovic powering his way into the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-3 victory.

“Just all in all it was probably the best match I’ve played so far in the tournament,” Djokovic said. “That’s what I want, what I wish for in this moment.”

The Serb, who has dropped only 12 games at the Country Club, extended his unbeaten record over his Croatian rival to 12 matches in another display of solid tennis.

Djokovic, who ended Rafael Nadal’s reign in Monte Carlo when he won the clay-court Masters tournament in 2013, will next face the Spaniard in a match he sees as “probably the biggest clay-court challenge you can have.”

It will be their 43rd career meeting, the first since Nadal beat Djokovic in last year’s French Open final.

“I’ve got to prepare myself mentally for that,” Djokovic said. “Other than the mental part, I think physically I’m ready. I’m going to need to keep the high level of performance throughout the entire match tomorrow.”

Nadal, an eight-time champion at the Country Club, had to battle for nearly 3 hours before securing a 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 victory over David Ferrer, who beat him in the quarterfinals last year.

“This is an important win for the future,” Nadal said.

Djokovic and Nadal have been going in opposite directions this season, as Nadal dropped to fifth in the world rankings following a string of poor results on hard court. Back on his favorite surface, he passed a significant test against Ferrer, a fellow clay specialist.

The eighth-seeded Cilic did not go without a fight against Djokovic and saved two match points in the final game but could not hold as Djokovic closed out the match in just over an hour.

Djokovic is off to his best start since 2011. He has lost only two matches in 2015 and is bidding to win a third Masters title in a row this year following victories in Indian Wells and Miami.

“I like the way I’m playing right now,” Djokovic said. “I’m trying to impose all the variety in the game that I have.”

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