Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
Nadal Wins Record Fifth Straight Monte-Carlo Crown
by James Buddell|
Reigning ATP World Tour Champion Rafael Nadal captured his fifth straight Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title on Sunday with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 victory over third seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia in two hours and 44 minutes to extend his winning streak to 27 matches at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament.
The top-seeded Spaniard won his third ATP World Tour title of the 2009 ATP World Tour season and is the first player to win an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament five consecutive years and at 22 years of age he joins Roger Federer with 14 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, second only to Andre Agassi’s record haul of 17.
Nadal is also the first ATP World Tour No. 1 to win the Monte-Carlo title since Ivan Lendl in 1988 (d. Jaite) and received €434,000 in prize money and 1000 South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings points for his fifth straight triumph.
“[It is] always really important for me start the clay season like this, for the confidence,” explained Nadal. “[To] win another time here is more than a dream for me. [It] is unbelievable, a fifth title here in Monte Carlo. I never expect something like this.
“[It] is one of the most important tournaments in the world. [It] is a really historic tournament. [The] best players of the history [played] here. [It was] a dream when I came to Monte Carlo in 2003.”
Nadal, who was appearing in his 43rd ATP World Tour level final, has now won 34 trophies putting him alongside Michael Chang in a tie for No. 15 place on the Open Era title list. He is now 23-1 lifetime in clay-court finals, with his only loss coming at Hamburg in May 2007 to Swiss Roger Federer.
He has also won 43 straight matches on clay in the month of April since 8 April 2005.
In an eagerly-awaited encounter, the 16th between the ATP World Tour No. 1 and No. 3-ranked players, Djokovic made three groundstroke errors in the first game that Nadal took advantage of by gaining a service break with a cross-court backhand winner on approach to the net.
Djokovic responded by rushing Nadal into two forehand and one backhand error to get back on level terms at 1-1. Appearing in his eighth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, Djokovic secured the first service hold of the match with a smash winner and well-placed ace down the middle for the third game.
Nadal fought off one break point at 1-2, 30-40 as Djokovic hit a crosscourt forehand into the net off a short rally, but could not conjure up a suitable response to a Djokovic drop shot on the Serbian’s second break point opportunity.
Nadal then reeled off five straight games with service breaks in the fifth, seventh and ninth games to take the opening set in 63 minutes. Djokovic received treatment for a lower back injury after saving four of five break points in the seventh game.
Djokovic highlighted just why he is returning to top form by resisting a barrage of powerful groundstrokes from Nadal in the first game of the second set to secure a service break after a lengthy rally ended with a smash winner from Djokovic.
The 21-year-old Serbian went on to extend his lead to 4-1 courtesy of a second service break with a backhand volley winner on approach to the net. Nadal kept battling hard but conceded his first set since his 2006 final win against Federer, when Djokovic hit two consecutive aces to wrap up the 42-minute second set.
In a key first game of the third set, Nadal first recovered from a 0-30 deficit and then saved three break points – completing a 16-minute opening game with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Djokovic opened up a 40-15 lead on serve in the second game, but saw that cut back by a forehand hit long and a double fault. Two further game points came and went before Nadal claimed a 2-0 lead when a Djokovic forehand hit the net tape and landed wide. Djokovic immediately hit a tennis ball out of the Monte-Carlo Country Club grounds, as a result he received a code violation from the chair umpire.
The World No. 3 regained his composure and won the third game after Nadal hit two groundstrokes out on successive points. After 41 minutes of play in the third set Nadal flexed his muscles and won four straight games – dropping just three points – to wrap up victory in two hours and 44 minutes.
“[Novak] is a very good player,” said Nadal. “On clay, too, he has very good results. I think top three or top four on clay. [Whenever you] play against him [it] is tough. And today wasn't an exception.”
Nadal is now just one Monte-Carlo title away from equalling England’s Reggie Doherty’s six titles (1897-99, 1902-04) at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, won at the dawn of the 103-year-old championship. The Spaniard has a 29-1 career record at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament, with his only loss coming in 2003 to Guillermo Coria.
The Mallorcan, who has ranked No. 1 since 18 August 2008, improved to 29-3 on the 2009 ATP World Tour season with other championship successes coming at the Australian Open (d. Federer) in January and at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells (d. Murray) in March.
Djokovic was appearing in his first Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final, having retired due to dizziness in the second set of his 2008 semi-final against Federer. The Monte-Carlo resident has an 8-4 tournament record. He was awarded €203,000 as runner-up and received 600 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking points.
“I think I've played a very good match, actually one of the best I have played against him on this surface,” said Djokovic.
“It's really unfortunate that in certain moments I didn't play the way I was supposed to play, with a little bit more patience. I went for too much. He used his strength and his experience playing in the big matches and just waited wisely for his chances, then he used them.”
Djokovic dropped to 26-9 on the 2009 ATP World Tour season after he appeared in his 20th ATP World Tour final (12-8). This year he won his 12th ATP World Tour title at Dubai (d. Ferrer) and also finished runner-up at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami (l. to Murray).
“We are coming back again to the story of believing in yourself,” said Djokovic of believing he could beat Nadal. “I think there is where the key of playing him. You just have to be focused every single point because you have a player on the other side of the net that doesn't really give you any points.
“I mean, you could see him [at] 5-1 in the third set, he played like it’s 5-all. He really doesn't care about the result. He just wants to give his best every single point. That's why he's very unique and that's why he's the best now.”
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco attended the 103rd edition of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, which had a record attendance of 123,000 spectators during the week.
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