Top-ranked Novak Djokovic overcame a strong challenge from Rafael Nadal to reach the Monte Carlo Masters final with a 6-3, 6-3 win Saturday in Monaco.
Djokovic, who extended his current winning streak to 16 matches, will face sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych as he bids for a second title at the clay-court Masters.
With Prince Albert of Monaco among the onlookers, both players produced some stunning tennis in the semifinal as Nadal showed glimpses of his old self, mixing aggression and superb defensive shots.
But the Spaniard, who has been struggling to get back to his best after a wrist injury and an appendectomy, was not consistent enough to deny Djokovic a shot at his fourth Masters title in a row.
Following his title at the Paris Masters last year, Djokovic posted back-to-back victories at Indian Wells and Miami and will try to become the first player to win the first three Masters of the season.
It was their first meeting since the Spaniard won his last big title with a win over Djokovic in last year's French Open final.
Earlier, Berdych overwhelmed Gael Monfis 6-1, 6-4 to advance to his first final in Monte Carlo.
Berdych immediately took control from the baseline and Monfils struggled to cope with the fast pace imposed by the big-hitting Czech. Monfils won just 11 points in a lopsided first set before the Frenchman changed his strategy, using more sliced shots to break up his opponent's rhythm. The move paid off early in the second set when Monfils broke back to level at 1-1 as Berdych made two forehand errors.
Monfils failed to build on the momentum, though, dropping his next service game as his hopes of becoming the first French player in 15 years to make the final at the Country Club vanished.
Nineteen Grand Slam titles. Nearly 20 years as a professional. An undefeated record this year. And not one career loss in the Fed Cup.
Serena Williams' vast experience proved the difference during an extremely tight first set against Italy's Camila Giorgi in a 7-6 (5), 6-2 win for the United States in a Fed Cup playoff in Brindisi, Italy.
Wearing red, white and blue, the top-ranked Williams was put to the test as she kicked off her clay season in front of a hostile crowd Saturday. The end result, though, was quite familiar.
“I competed well,” the 33-year-old Williams said. “She played very, very well and I stayed in there. I didn't get negative. I stayed positive and just did the best that I could. I've been working really hard my whole life, so maybe it was just experience.”
Neither player broke serve in the first set, which was only decided when Giorgi missed two straight forehands to end the tiebreaker.
Italy's Sara Errani then evened the best-of-five series with the U.S. at 1-1 by routing 57th-ranked Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-2.