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Monday, April 20, 2009

Nadal wins fifth straight Monte Carlo title

Nadal wins 5th straight Monte Carlo Masters title
Associated Press

MONACO (AP) - Rafael Nadal became the first player to win five straight Monte Carlo Masters titles by beating Novak Djokovic 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 on Sunday.

The top-ranked Spaniard, however, lost a set at the clay court tournament for the first time since the 2006 final against Roger Federer.

"Fifth title here in Monte Carlo. I never expect something like this," said Nadal, who won his third title this season after the Australian Open and the Masters title on hard courts in Indian Wells, Calif. "Always really important for me (to) start the clay season like this."

Nadal trailed 3-1 in the first set before reeling off five straight games. Struggling on serve in the third, he saved three break points and needed 14 minutes to hold his opening service game.

"A little bit lucky because he has two break points and important drop shot. I came back. That point was really important," Nadal said. "After that I think I played really well. In the important moments, I was focused all the time."

It was the third-seeded Djokovic who crumbled as Nadal clinched victory on his first match point when the Serbian sent a backhand into the net.

"I played a very good match, actually one of the best I have played against him on this surface," Djokovic said. "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."

Nadal extended his winning streak at Monte Carlo to 27 matches and won his 21st straight victory on clay since losing to Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain in the second round of the Rome Masters in May 2008.

Nobody has matched Nadal's performance at the Monte Carlo tournament since tennis turned professional in 1968.

Reggie Doherty won the event six times overall between 1897-99 and 1902-04, while five-time winner Anthony Wilding of New Zealand won four times in a row from 1911-14 and got his other title in 1908.

Djokovic had the momentum after he dominated the second set, winning all nine points at the net and putting pressure on Nadal's wavering serve.

"It certainly gives me a lot of confidence playing against him," Djokovic said. "Hopefully I can have another chance this season."

Djokovic missed his chance at the beginning of the third set, wasting three break points in the first game. After a long rally at 30-40, Djokovic seemed certain to break Nadal with a drop shot, but Nadal somehow got it back for a winner and Djokovic sank to his knees.

"He got (an) incredible drop shot and he made a winner. The angle was just incredible," Djokovic said. "I think that's what kind of lifted him up."

With Djokovic finding his range with huge shots, he forced another chance that Nadal saved with a strong first serve. Another big forehand winner offered up a third break point, which Djokovic missed when his return landed just out.

"It was just unfortunate to miss some opportunities in the start of the third set, because if I was break up, then things would probably look different," Djokovic said.

Nadal broke Djokovic immediately for a 2-0 lead, but he was struggling to hold and dropped serve on his third break point in the third game to let Djokovic back in the match.

But Nadal improved and won the next five games - just like he did at 3-1 down in the first set - as Djokovic went for extravagant winners that landed out.


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