Rafael Nadal kept one streak alive, and broke another. He won his 8th consecutive Monte Carlo Masters tournament, without dropping a set en route to his first title since the 2011 Roland Garros, while beating Novak Djokovic for the first time after losing to the world’s number one player in their last seven meetings.
Confidence. Nadal finally played against Djokovic with the usual swagger we’re come to known him to have on clay. Djokovic was about digging deep this entire tournament. The death of his grandfather shook him, as it would anyone. He kept on playing, kept on winning, but he ran out of gas after the win over Berdych. He didn’t have anything left for Nadal.
Nadal saved his best of the tournament for the final. He was aggressive, attacking and adventurous in his shot making. It paid off early, not making him fold into a defensive spot he usually finds when facing Djokovic. Novak didn’t try anything creative. He just didn’t have it in him, eventually losing 6-3, 6-1, barely looking like someone who can threaten Nadal all throughout the match.
But it’s hard to speak of another change of reigns and Nadal returning, possibly, to the #1 spot in the world. Because this wasn’t Djokovic we’ve gotten used to over the past year. Emotionally rattled and spent, it’s hard to judge and criticize Djokovic objectively. The question is how deep is the gash, and how quickly can he bounce back. Rome and Madrid aren’t too far away.
For Nadal, it wasn’t just about retaining his points from last season, when he opened Clay season by winning at Monte Carlo while Djokovic preferred to rest, same as Roger Federer this year. It was about making a deceleration of intentions.
Of showing he’s healthy. He’s strong enough to return to #1. He didn’t impress for most of the week, but like we said earlier, he saved his best for the final. Even with Federer thrown into the mix, Nadal looks favorite to rule court season. It all depends on how Djokovic bounces back from his first finals loss to Nadal, and from the death in his family.