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MONTE CARLO, April 20 (Reuters) - Eight-times champion Rafael Nadal defeated Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 7-6 to reach the Monte Carlo Masters final on Saturday.
Tsonga made a late surge from 5-1 down in the second set, but could not prevent the Spaniard from clinching a 46th consecutive victory at the first big claycourt tournament of the season.
Neither the cold wind gusting off the Mediterranean, nor the inconsistent Tsonga managed to upset a solid Nadal, who has made the Centre Court stage his own since 2005.
The sixth-seeded Frenchman, who only managed to win six games in three sets when the two first met on clay in a Davis Cup tie two years ago, made too many mistakes from the baseline to pose a greater challenge this time.
He briefly unsettled Nadal in the second set when he changed his gameplan by taking every opportunity to come to the net, clawing his way back into the encounter and thrilling the previously subdued French crowd.
He attacked in waves and saved four match points to force a tie-break that was easily won by the authoritative Nadal.
The reigning champion, who has a 48-1 win-loss record in the principality, will face either world number one and last year's beaten finalist Novak Djokovic or Italian Fabio Fognini on Sunday. (Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Toby Davis)