Djokovic to face Murray in final after Nadal withdraws
Defending champion Novak Djokovic claimed a 6-0 7-6 (7/5) win over Argentina's Juan Monaco to book his place in the Sony Ericsson Open final against Andy Murray.
In contrast to Murray, who advanced without playing a shot as Rafael Nadal withdrew through injury, what looked like being a simple outing for Djokovic turned into something more taxing as Monaco battled back in the second set.
Indeed, there were echoes of yesterday's match against David Ferrer for the Serbian.
The first set could barely have been simpler for Djokovic as he dropped only eight points.
And though Monaco upped his game in the second set, making life uncomfortable for the top seed, Djokovic seemed to be on his way to a straightforward win as he served for the match at 5-4.
But, just as Ferrer did yesterday, Monaco broke back and took the set into a tie-break.
It only delayed the inevitable, though, as the defending champion sealed his progress on his second match point.
"As I did yesterday in the quarter-finals, I started very strong, just going for the shots, being very aggressive," Djokovic said. "Then I just wasn't able to close it out.
"It was a very similar match to the one against Ferrer.
"It was [an] exciting match I think for us to play and for the crowd. I didn't expect an easy match and [I'm] just happy to be through."
Nadal, meanwhile, revealed he pulled out of his semi-final against Murray because he did not want to "lie to everybody".
The world number two fell foul of his long-suffering knees in Miami, this time his left one, handing Murray a free pass.
Nadal still opted to face the media, though, and admitted he made the decision, albeit just two hours prior to the start of the match, in the interests of honesty.
"I waited until today in the morning. I did a lot of treatment yesterday," he said.
"But I am not ready to compete today. I am very sorry for the fans. I'm very sorry for the tournament. I'm very sorry for everybody who was ready to watch the match on television. I cannot go on court and lie to everybody."
Murray was disappointed not to be able to put his game plan, worked out with coach Ivan Lendl, to the test.
"Every time you play against one of the top guys in the world, it's always a good opportunity to see where your game's at," he was quoted as saying.
"I have been working with Ivan now for a couple of months, on certain tactics that would work against Rafa, Novak and Roger [Federer].
"It would have been nice to see whether or not those things were working."
Murray will get the chance to try out some of those tactics as he faces Djokovic for the third time this season in Sunday's final.
Djokovic beat the Scot in five sets in the Australian Open semi-final on his way to claiming the Melbourne crown, but Murray got his revenge at the same stage in Dubai.