Djokovic ends Nadal's Monte Carlo reign
Updated: Sunday, 21 Apr 2013 16:04
Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal's supremacy at the Monte Carlo Masters in today's final and underlined why he is still the man to beat.
Nadal had won the last eight tournaments in the principality - including beating Djokovic in the 2009 and 2012 finals - but the Spaniard was left stunned when the Australian Open champion comfortably won the first set, having raced into a 5-0 lead.
The world number one twice battled back from a break down in the second set to take it to a tiebreak before wrapping up a 6-2 7-6 (7/1) win in a little under two hours.
While Nadal is still working his way back to his best form after returning from an eight-month lay-off due to injury and illness in February, the manner of the Serbian's victory - particularly his first set performance - left many gobsmacked.
"Congratulations Novak, what you're doing is just amazing. Congratulations to you for winning my favourite tournament," he said at the presentation ceremony.
"Thank you very much all my team for supporting me, the last year was especially hard for me so without them and without the support of all of you - all the messages I received during that time - was very positive energy for me."
"I did not know if I was going to be a part of the tournament this year. I made a decision to play, right now, it's the best decision of my life" - Novak Djokovic
The left-hander had last tasted defeat in this competition in 2003, which may have ensured he was the favourite against one of his greatest foes.
Nadal was perhaps caught a little off guard by rain delaying the final for almost an hour and when play did get under way, Djokovic was firing on all cylinders.
He was in the ascendancy as early as the second game when Nadal struck two backhands long and the Australian Open champion refused to take his foot off the gas with Nadal having no answer to his opponent's awesome power off both sides.
A fierce cross court backhand winner gave Djokovic a chance of a 4-0 lead, which he ruthlessly converted to leave Nadal reeling.
Djokovic comfortably held which gave him the scarcely believable chance of bagelling arguably the greatest ever clay court player.
Nadal, who had not been playing as poorly as the scoreline would seem to suggest, staved off four set points before he finally got on the scoreboard.
The seven-time French Open champion won another game but Djokovic would not be denied and wrapped up the opening set in 46 minutes on his eighth set point.
The mini-rally towards the end of that set helped to steady Nadal and the players settled into a rhythm before the 11-time grand slam champion broke in the fifth game of the second set after Djokovic had missed a backhand down the line.
Just as it seemed the momentum was swinging in Nadal's favour, he dropped a level and handed Djokovic a break back.
But Djokovic's backhand did not seem as certain as it did in the first set and two unforced errors down the line gave Nadal a 6-5 lead.
Djokovic stormed back, however, breaking to love to force a tie-break, where he lost just one point as he sealed his third title of the season.
"I cannot ask for a better start to my clay season," said Djokovic, who was a doubt to compete in this event after injuring his ankle on Davis Cup duty earlier this month.
"I did not know if I was going to be a part of the tournament this year. I made a decision to play, right now, it's the best decision of my life."