Djokovic sets up Nadal final
Novak Djokovic crawled into the final of the Madrid Masters, extending his unbeaten run still further with a 4-6 6-4 6-1 win over unseeded Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.
The Serb was outplayed in the opening set but managed to find a way to bounce back and extend his winning streak to 31 matches this season to reach the final.
Djokovic made a sluggish start to the match, which coincided with Bellucci's blistering start, the Brazilian picking up exactly where he left off in the previous two rounds, beating first fourth seed Andy Murray and then seventh seed Tomas Berdych.
The Brazilian world number 36 grabbed the first break of the match in the fifth game, sealing it with a blistering forehand winner down the line.
Bellucci rarely looked troubled on serve as he held to consolidate the break before going on to serve out the set in the 10th game, peppering the Djokovic forehand and eventually drawing the error from the Serb.
Looking back on the match, the Brazilian will rue it as a missed opportunity to record the biggest win of his fledgling career, as he further extended his lead with a break in the fifth game of the second set.
Indeed, it looked for all the world like Djokovic's unbeaten run would finally be brought to a shuddering halt in straight sets as Bellucci continued to prove the stronger player, holding once again to consolidate the early break.
But with six months of scintillating tennis under his belt, the Serb was never going to give up without a fight and he found a way to break back in the sixth game with Bellucci sending a backhand long in one of the first signs of weakness all evening.
The break back seemed, understandably, to energise Djokovic and the Serb took his next opportunity to plant a seed of doubt into the mind of Bellucci, breaking in the 10th game with a shoulder-height forehand volley winner, to level the match at one set apiece.
And unfortunately the final set was one-way traffic, Djokovic exploiting a rapidly tiring Bellucci's inferior movement to break in just the second game when a forehand from the Brazilian ended up in the bottom of the net.
Bellucci did well to recover from 15-30 down in the fourth game, after an injury timeout, but it was scant consolation for the Brazilian as Djokovic went on to grab the double break just two games later, Bellucci this time netting a backhand.
The second break left Djokovic serving for the match, an opportunity he rose to comfortably, serving out to love with an ace out wide to complete a somewhat anti-climactic finish to the match.