FOR the first time in nine years, the Monte Carlo Masters trophy belongs to someone other than Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard’s record reign at the clay-court tournament finally ended as he lost 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) to world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the final.
Nadal won his 46 previous matches and the last eight titles at Monte Carlo – beating Djokovic in last year’s final – and his last defeat here was against Guillermo Coria ten years ago. Nadal missed the 2004 tournament through injury before winning his first Monte Carlo title the following year. Nadal then beat Roger Federer in the next three finals. His eight straight titles were an ATP record for one tournament.
“I cannot be happier than I am in this moment knowing what I’ve been through the whole week, actually two weeks,” said Djokovic, who twisted his ankle two weeks ago playing for Serbia against the United States. “If somebody told me ten days ago I’d be winning the trophy, I wouldn’t think it’s so realistic, to be honest.”
Djokovic faced Nadal for the 16th time in a championship decider and they are now 8-8 in finals.
“I think he played a little bit better than me, especially in the first set,” Nadal said. “I felt that I was playing really well the second set and I was having more chances than him.”
Djokovic sensed Nadal was there for the taking. “I knew after yesterday’s match that I had a feeling that I had a big chance to win against Rafa if I was on the top of my game,” Djokovic said.
In Argentina, meanwhile, Great Britain’s hopes of returning to the Fed Cup World Group were shattered as they lost their play-off in Buenos Aires. Laura Robson and Elena Baltacha both lost three-set matches yesterday to give the hosts an unassailable 3-1 lead. World No 38 Robson was defeated 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 by Paula Ormaechea, before the returning Baltacha felll 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to Maria Irigoyen.
The result means the Judy Murray-captained GB team must return to the Euro/Africa Group and attempt to qualify again next February.
With the tie at 1-1 from the opening day’s singles, Robson, who won on Saturday, was strongly fancied to defeat Ormaechea in the third rubber, but fell away badly in the decider after levelling things up at one set all. Baltacha, who played her first match in nine months only last week, was preferred to rookie Johanna Konta. The Scot battled back from the loss of the first set but ran out of steam in the decider as Argentina rendered the doubles rubber meaningless.
In the elite World Group semi-finals, Russia completed a remarkable fightback from two down to beat Slovakia 3-2 in Moscow, while rain saw play suspended in Palermo on Sunday with Italy leading the Czech Republic 2-1.