MADRID: World number one Novak Djokovic set-up a mouthwatering Madrid Masters final showdown against defending champion Andy Murray by seeing off Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Murray, the second seed, earlier registered just his second ever win over Rafael Nadal on clay to make the final with a 7-5, 6-4 victory.
Djokovic has yet to drop a set in the Spanish capital this week but he was nearly caught cold by the windy conditions as he had to battle back from 0-40 down in the first game with some fine serving.
The Serb slowly began to find his rhythm and broke through in the eighth game as Nishikori pulled a forehand wide before serving out for the set.
Djokovic looked set to seal victory comfortably as he led 40-0 at 5-4 in the second set, but the Japanese star dug deep, saving the three match points and then a fourth as he broke back before forcing the tiebreak.
However, the top seed bounced back to take the breaker 7-4 and set up his first meeting with Murray in a Masters series final on clay.
“I had an easy forehand to finish off the match at 40-0 then a double fault and couple of good points from Kei and the break was there,” said Djokovic.
“I obviously should not have let that happen. On the other hand, I was happy the way I handled the games after that. In the tiebreak I think I played very solid under the circumstances, knowing that I missed four match points.
“I think mentally it’s good to go through these particular situations for confidence.”
On Sunday, Djokovic will look to extend his 22-9 head-to-head record against Murray, exactly 10 years on from their very first encounter in the Madrid third round.
“He has improved tremendously on clay the last couple years,” added Djokovic.
“I think he’s moving better and sliding better on the court. He is more patient. He constructs the point better, which is very important for clay.”
Murray’s only previous win over Nadal on clay also came in Madrid in last year’s final.