The streak is over and the clay season just got that much more interesting. Rafael Nadal’s reign in Monaco came to end today when rival Novak Djokovic outdueled the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 7-6 to win his first Monte Carlo title.
Nadal had dominated the event winning the last eight years and 46 straight matches, but on this Sunday Djokovic was simply and unquestionably the better player. And early on it was a shocker of a mismatch in favor of the Serb.
Rain delayed the start about hour. The added moisture to the court didn’t do Nadal any favors either as it neutralizes some of that wicked spin. Djokovic pounced early racing out to an almost unthinkable 5-0 lead behind a bevy of winners. But you could see Nadal working his way into the match, and he did winning two straight games but it was too little, too late for the opening set.
Rafa maintained the momentum in the second as the court continued to dry out, breaking Djokovic en route to a 4-2 lead before Djokovic managed to level. Nadal broke again at 5-5, but then serving for the second at 6-5, like yesterday, Nadal fell apart and was broken at love. At LOVE!
It was all Djokovic from there as the World No. 1 won, by my count, 11 of the last 12 points to ends Nadal’s run in Monte Carlo.
A week ago, sorry five days ago, Djokovic was a huge question mark to even play the event after turning that ankle two Sundays ago. Now back on top of the world having just slain the clay king.
I’ve always felt Novak’s had the game to beat Nadal – and he’s proven it, beating Rafa 15 of 34 times – but with the ankle, some form issues of late (poor results at IW and Miami) and Nadal’s complete dominance at this event, it seemed a stretch he could win today. But all credit to Novak for putting together one of his best wins ever on the dirt.
He played some great tennis, served well, played aggressively and capitalized on Nadal’s weak second serves. The ankle injury obviously is/was overblown, so that’s a non-issue forward, let’s put that to rest. The only bad news for Novak is the French doesn’t start for another month. And that’s what Rafa will focus on.
Nadal didn’t play his best. Be it a rumored back injury(?) or just Novak or whatever, he wasn’t hitting his backhand with much force. But again, a hot Djokovic will do that. When Novak’s on there’s really few comfortable places for Rafa to hit to.
And like I had said yesterday when he blew a 5-1 lead to Tsonga, he again lost break leads twice in the second today. That’s an issue.
Rafa still has more than enough time to get back on track. He’s scheduled for two events in Spain – Barcelona this week, then Madrid – before Rome. And my guess is he’ll have another shot at Novak before Roland Garros where he’s still the favorite
Djokovic has now won 14 Masters titles, collecting all but Cincinnati, to go along with 37 overall. Novak said afterward that is was a perfect start to the clay season, and it was. Now he just needs a perfect finish.
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