Nadal expects greater tests ahead
Originally published on: 23/04/12 00:00
The king of clay is firmly back in his throne, but Rafael Nadal acknowledges that Novak Djokovic was not at his best in their first meeting since January’s astonishing Australian Open final.
The world No.2 ended a run of seven straight defeats against Djokovic in an emphatic 6-3 6-1 triumph at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to win the tournament for an eighth time and secure his 20th Masters 1000 title.
“No, Djokovic wasn't the real best Djokovic,” admitted Nadal after the 79-minute exchange. “Today, yes, he had more mistakes than usual. I won 6-3 6-1. Win[ning] 6-3 6-1 is for sure not normal against the best player of the world today. But [it] happened. Very happy for my victory. Sorry for him. But that’s sport.”
Djokovic had endured a difficult week at his home tournament in Monte Carlo after learning of the death of his grandfather ahead of his third round match with Alexandr Dolgopolov. While the Serb did find the strength to defeat the Ukrainian, before beating Robin Haase and Tomas Berdych to reach the final, the Australian Open and Miami champion couldn't find the mental reserves to win a third title of 2012. He won just 40% of points on first serve and didn’t strike a single ace.
Most important for Nadal, aside from a remarkable eighth triumph at the Monte Carlo Country Club, was the psychological boost he gained from beating Djokovic for the first time since the 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
“[It’s] important, very important [to] break the bad [losing streak]. [It’s] important to break that situation, it’s important to win the tournament another time," he said.
Nadal heads straight to the ATP 500 event in Barcelona, where he will seek a seventh title in eight years in a field that contains world No.4 Andy Murray, Monte Carlo semi-finalist Tomas Berdych and the ever-dangerous David Ferrer.
“Right now, [I’ve] started the clay court season better than possible without losing a set," he said. "But next tournament, [I] have a tough draw in Barcelona, a lot of good players there. [I] Have to be ready for that. I have to try.”