MONACO -- Seven-time defending champion Rafael Nadal will try to beat top-ranked Novak Djokovic for the first time in eight finals when they meet in the Monte Carlo Masters final today.
Nadal advanced to the final without dropping a set in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Gilles Simon, while Djokovic rallied from a set down to beat Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and reach his second final at Monte Carlo.
"He's the best ever in history of the sport on this surface. It's an ultimate challenge," Djokovic said. "I cannot have ups and downs. I cannot afford that against Rafa. But why not believe that I can win?"
Djokovic has beaten the Spaniard in seven consecutive finals, including the recent Australian Open.
"I have everything to win. That's the only positive thing about losing seven times," Nadal said.
Overall, Nadal leads their head-to-heads 16-14 but has not won since a group-stage match at the 2010 ATP Finals in London.
But the Serb, who lost to Nadal in the 2009 final, is playing under difficult circumstances.
Two days after the death of his grandfather, he pointed to the sky for several moments after his win against Berdych.
"Under the circumstances, I didn't know if I could reach the final this week," Djokovic said.
U.S. has Fed Cup lead
KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Serena Williams overpowered Ukrainian teenager Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-1 Saturday to give the United States a 2-0 lead in the Fed Cup playoff series.
In the opening match, American Christina McHale defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 on clay at the Superior Resort.
The U.S. needs one victory among the reverse singles and doubles today to return to the top tier of the Fed Cup group.