MONTE CARLO (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal’s eight-year reign at the Monte Carlo Masters with a clinical 6-2 7-6 victory in the final on Sunday.
Nadal, the only player to win a tournament eight times in a row, had enjoyed a 46-match winning streak at the claycourt Masters event before world number one Djokovic prevailed to claim his first title in the principality.
The Serbian celebrated his 14th Masters crown and became the first player to defeat Nadal in three different finals on clay, having already beaten him in Madrid and Rome in 2011.
Monaco-based Djokovic, who made a late call to participate in the tournament after injuring an ankle while on Davis Cup duty two weeks ago, produced a superb performance to outplay Nadal on the picturesque center court that has been the Spaniard’s stage since 2005.
After light rain delayed the start of the final for 45 minutes, Djokovic punished an error-prone Nadal to go 5-0 up in the first set.
The match had little in common with last year’s Monte Carlo final, when Nadal overwhelmed Djokovic 6-3 6-1 in the first big claycourt event of the season a month before he secured his seventh French Open crown.
Nadal, who took a month-long break before the tournament after winning three titles following his return from seven months out with a knee injury, saved five set points on his own serve and fought back to 5-2, only to hand his opponent the set with a double fault.
A more aggressive Nadal put Djokovic under pressure by taking a 4-2 lead in the second set.
But Djokovic dug in to level at 4-4, and after another exchange of breaks the Serbian ran away with the tie-breaker 7-1.
Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Stephen Wood