April 23, 2012
Nadal snaps Djokovic hex
By Sports Network
ROQUEBRUNE-CAP-MARTIN, FRANCE - If there was one place Rafael Nadal was going to end a lengthy skid against Novak Djokovic, it was the soothing red clay at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Nadal captured his eighth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters title, and snapped a seven-match losing streak to Djokovic in the process, with a 6-3, 6-1 rout of the world No. 1 in Sunday's final.
Djokovic had dominated Nadal like no one else could since the start of 2011, beating the Spanish superstar in seven consecutive finals. Featured in that amazing run were victories at each of the last three Grand Slams, including a five-set thriller at the Australian Open in January.
"It's very important to break that situation," said Nadal about finally beating Djokovic again. "[Breaking] that situation [and] winning a Masters, one of my favorites, [makes] everything perfect today."
Sunday's match was virtually no contest from the start.
Nadal picked up an early break and rolled from there. He closed out the first set in 46 minutes with a second break, as Djokovic blew a shot wide after saving one set point with a perfect serve and volley.
Djokovic sent a backhand long to give Nadal a break for a 2-0 lead in the second set and the 10-time Grand Slam champ solidified it with a hold at love in the next game. Another break followed for a 4-0 cushion before Djokovic finally got on the board with a break of Nadal in the next game, drawing cheers from the crowd.
The momentum didn't last long, as Nadal broke right back for a 5-1 edge and completed the domination in the following game with an ace.
"He took his opportunities [in the] first set and made a break, and that's it," said Djokovic. "I didn't make him play at all. I just was out there trying to put the ball in the court."
Nadal notched his 42nd straight win at the Monte Carlo Country Club and improved to 44-1 all-time at the event. He also beat Djokovic for the 2009 Monte Carlo crown and his only loss at the tournament was a 2003 third-round setback to Guillermo Coria.
"To start the clay-court season winning here is an amazing feeling," Nadal remarked. "This tournament is very special for me. My level of tennis was high during the last four matches, since the second round."
Sunday's win gave Nadal his 20th career Masters title, snapping a tie with Roger Federer for the most all-time. It was also the first tournament victory of any kind for Nadal since last year's French Open. The main reason for the drought, of course, had been Djokovic, whose previous loss to Nadal had come at the 2010 ATP World Tour finals.
The Serb followed that season-ending loss to Nadal with a year for the ages in 2011, earning 10 titles -- including three Grand Slam victories -- and an ascension to the top ranking. He beat Nadal in two clay finals -- Madrid and Rome -- but didn't play at Monte Carlo and didn't make it to the French Open final after a loss to Federer in the semifinals.
This season also started well for Djokovic, just not as good as last year when he didn't lose until Roland Garros. After winning in Melbourne, he fell in the semifinals at both Dubai and Indian Wells before claiming the Miami Masters.
It proved to be a difficult week for Djokovic, a Monte Carlo resident, as he learned of his grandfather's death on Thursday. Still, he reached his 45th career final and fell to 30-15 all-time in title matches.
"It's been a tough week, not just for me but for everybody in my family," Djokovic added. "We're going through this together. In the end, I played the final and I'm really happy for that."
Nadal, meanwhile, claimed his 47th career title in 68 finals. A whopping 33 of those titles have come on clay, trailing only Guillermo Vilas (45) and Thomas Muster (40) for the most all-time. He has also won 72 straight matches on clay in the month of April.
By snapping the lengthy losing streak in the series, Nadal improved to 17-14 all-time against Djokovic and earned a first prize of $603,000.