MONACO – Rafael Nadal finally managed to beat Novak Djokovic in a final, thrashing the top-ranked Serb 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the eighth consecutive year and end a run of seven straight defeats to his rival in title matches.
Nadal was hardly troubled by Djokovic in this one and broke the Serb's serve five times in a one-sided affair on clay to win his 42nd straight match at Monte Carlo. It was his first title since last year's French Open and the 47th of his career.
"I always loved this tournament since I was a kid. One of my dreams was play here," Nadal said. "It's a historic tournament (where) you see all your idols when you are a kid playing here."
The 25-year-old Nadal thrust his hands in the air after clinching victory in style with an ace that flew past the beleaguered Djokovic, who beat Nadal in an epic Australian Open final this year.
"If you see the finals I win here, all the finals are against probably top-six players," Nadal said. "That's something that makes the victories even more difficult."
Nadal now leads their head-to-head series 17-14, but it was his first win against Djokovic since an early match at the 2010 ATP Finals in London. The Serb had beaten Nadal in three consecutive Grand Slam finals and handed him his only defeats on clay last year.
"Winning against Novak in (the) final after losing a few ones is important for me," Nadal said. "My level of tennis was high during the last four matches."
Nadal was also relieved to come through the tournament without further aggravating his troublesome left knee, having rested it and had treatment for three weeks before coming to Monte Carlo.
"I am very happy because my knee is not limiting (my) movement. I can run 100 percent," Nadal said. "You have pain, but (if) you feel you can run to every ball, (then) the pain never is a problem."
Nadal has won a record 20 Masters titles, putting him one ahead of 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
Djokovic, who has been playing through grief since the death of his grandfather Thursday, said he felt emotionally drained and was unable to summon the mental strength he needed to dig deep against Nadal.
"I definitely don't want to take away anything from Rafa's win. He was a better player," Djokovic said. "But it's a fact that I just didn't have any emotional energy left in me."
Djokovic's grandfather was buried back home in Serbia on Saturday.
"I've never been caught up in this kind of emotional situation before," Djokovic said. "I'm just happy to reach the finals really under the circumstances. It's been a very difficult week for me to go through mentally."
He has not decided what his schedule will be over the next few days.
"I obviously have to go to visit my grandfather's grave and see, because I wasn't there (at the) funeral yesterday," he said. "So I'll be there."
Nadal had promised to be aggressive and, after Djokovic held in his opening service game at love, the Spaniard was relentless in running the Serb all over the court.
"Fantastic, impressive. The way he's been treating this sport is a real example of a champion," Djokovic said of Nadal's eight straight wins at Monte Carlo. "I only have nice things to say about him. Every year he comes back and he looks like he's the first time in this place."
Djokovic struggled to find a rhythm, making 25 unforced errors to just 11 winners. Nadal, meanwhile, timed most of his shots to perfection and pushed Djokovic further and further back.
"I think today he played just enough to win," Djokovic said. "I just wasn't there. You know, I didn't play well, play at all, you know. I just was out there trying to put the ball in the court."
The breezy conditions seemed to bother Djokovic more than they did Nadal, although the swirling winds were not as intense as Saturday.
Nadal, the 10-time Grand Slam champion, found his range quickly and broke Djokovic in the third game when the Serb's backhand sailed wide.
In the second set, Nadal went up 3-0 after breaking Djokovic's serve then holding at love.
That was soon 4-0 as Nadal won a long rally on break point. Djokovic looked to have won it with a big forehand, but Nadal somehow managed to lob Djokovic while fully stretched out. The ball landed right at the top of the court, surprising Djokovic, whose hurried return set up nicely for Nadal to whack another brutal forehand winner.
Although Djokovic broke right back, any thought of a comeback was snuffed out by Nadal when he broke Djokovic at love.