Rafa racks up fifth Monte Carlo title
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:31
Rafael Nadal was forced to produce a magnificent display to beat Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-6 6-1 in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 and claim a record fifth title in Monaco.
Credit must go to Djokovic, who dictated proceedings in the second set – the first set Nadal has dropped at the event since 2006. The world No.3 had break points early in the third but failed to convert, before Nadal steamrolled his way through the set to a 27th straight Monte Carlo win.
Nadal has now equalled Roger Federer’s 14 Masters tournament wins – only Andre Agassi, with 17, has won more. But the 22-year-old faced one of his toughest examinations on a clay court in recent years.
With only four wins in 15 previous matches against Nadal – including a crushing straight-sets Davis Cup defeat on clay earlier this season – Djokovic entered the final as a huge underdog.
But after dropping serve in the opening game, the 21-year-old Serb levelled immediately and broke again for a 3-1 lead, mixing up his game well as Nadal made an uncharacteristically high number of errors.
The Spaniard held the upper hand on the Djokovic serve, however, and a couple of trademark forehands helped him break to love in game five before he reeled off another four straight games to take the set.
When Djokovic called for the trainer to assess a back problem late in the set, the signs were not good. But in the second set the No.3 seed turned the match on its head, breaking immediately and surviving a tense fourth game to lead 3-1. Djokovic was increasingly effective up court as Nadal struggled to contain his approach shots, and sealed the set with two aces.
The third set promised drama, and did not disappoint, with the first three games all going to deuce and producing a hatful of break points for both men. One contender for rally of the season saw Nadal withstand huge pressure to save a break point, finished by chasing down a drop shot and producing an incredible angled winner that left Djokovic on his knees.
That was one of three break points Djokovic failed to convert in game one, and in the following, equally epic game, the Serb let three game points slip away with errors and a double-fault. Nadal pounced, bringing up break point with a fantastic wrong-footing backhand pass down the line, and Djokovic conspired against himself with a a missed forehand on break point.
The Serb was not done, however, converting his third break point in the following game, but with his temper visibly fraying finally cracked in game four, being broken to love to trail 3-1.
Nadal looked much the stronger now, quickly holding to love, and a tired-looking Djokovic double-faulted on break point in game six as the set ran away from him. He netted a forehand on match point, leaving Nadal to celebrate in familiar fashion, rolling around in the dirt.