(Reuters) - Top seed Novak Djokovic overcame a strong challenge from Belgium’s David Goffin to reach the Miami Open final with a 7-6(5) 6-4 victory on Friday as he continued his pursuit of a fifth title in six years on Key Biscayne.
The Serbian world number one shrugged off a slow start in tough on-court conditions before hitting his stride, and sealed the win with a powerful first serve that forced a wayward Goffin return to end an encounter that lasted just over two hours.
Australian Open champion Djokovic improved his stellar record for the year to 27-1 and will next face Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who ousted Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-3 7-5 in the second semi-final.
The 28-year-old Djokovic, a five-times champion in Miami, is bidding to match Andre Agassi’s record of six titles at the event and earn a record 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.
”It was windy, it was humid, it was warm,“ Djokovic told reporters. ”It was like everything was thrown out there.
“And to overcome those obstacles and conditions was something that I‘m proud of. I managed to stay tough in the right moments.”
Djokovic, whose only defeat this year came in February when he retired against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in Dubai due to an eye infection, applauded Goffin’s performance.
“He plays very clean,” Djokovic said. “Also, I think he improved his serve. I had difficulty reading it. Physically, it was a great battle with lots of exchanges from the baseline.”
With Goffin initially playing much steadier from the baseline in the Miami heat, Djokovic came under intense early pressure and saved three break points in the opening game before holding serve.
Djokovic and Goffin traded service breaks in the seventh and eighth games before battling to a tie-break which the Serb clinched 7-5 after his opponent, reaching high for a lob, hit a backhand volley into the net.
The second set went with serve until the seventh game when 15th seed Goffin hit a forehand long before netting a backhand to be broken and trail 3-4.
Djokovic then comfortably served out to book his place in Sunday’s final at Crandon Park where he will seek to add another Miami crown to his titles from 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014 and last year.
Goffin, 25, who reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final in Indian Wells two weeks ago, is projected to climb to a career-high 13th in the world rankings on Monday.
Nishikori made his first Miami final by taking out brash young Australian Kyrgios in some style.
“It’s a great feeling to be in my first final in Miami and it was very good playing today so I‘m very happy,” said the sixth seeded Japanese.
“In the second set I got a little bit tight after I broke his service game and I tried to be focused on what I had to do on my service game and the last couple of points I tried to be aggressive.”
While happy to get through he was under no illusions of what lay ahead on Sunday, when he will be looking to break a five-match losing streak against the Serbian world number one.
”It’s going to be tough for sure,“ he admitted. ”He’s been playing well and we just played in Australia and I lost in three sets so I will have to do something better.
“I hope can play another good match.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes/Ben Everill in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine/Nick Mulvenney