Nadal returns to clay form with knockout of Djokovic

Rafael Nadal returned to full clay-court form in spectacular style as he pounced on an emotionally depleted Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-1 to win an unprecedented eighth straight title at the Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday.

The rout in 78 minutes. with an ace on match point, came against a Serb opponent who was drained after learning of the death of his grandfather in Serbia this week.

Nadal was quietly celebrating the end of a nightmare after losing his last seven finals against Djokovic, who also beat Spaniard on “his” surface for 2011 trophies in Madrid and Rome.

“I always loved this tournament, seriously, since I was a kid,” said the satisfied Spaniard. “One of my dreams was to play here. It’s an historic tournament where you see all of your idols playing.

“To have eight victories, you must be lucky, you have to be in the right way, no injuries, perfect conditions for eight years in a row. That’s the first thing.

“And you have to be playing almost perfect to win eight titles in a row, especially in a Masters 1000. The best in the world always play, you have to win against the best.

“I had lost to Novak seven times, so losing eight would not have been much different. But to win this one makes a big difference.

“Hopefully I will stay healthy and go to Barcelona (next week) and play a good tournament.”

Djokovic admitted that after winning three matches and coming from behind since receiving news of his family tragedy “I just didn’t have any emotional energy left in me.

“I was there physically, game-wise I was playing OK throughout the week. But it was a bad day. If I wanted to have any chance of winning against Rafa on clay, I needed that extra gear, which I didn’t have.

“Rafa always plays well on clay, it’s been like that throughout the years. Today he played just enough to win. I made a lot of unforced errors. I just wasn’t there, I didn’t play well.”

Nadal’s win was his 42nd in a row at the Mediterranean venue and marks his 47th career trophy and 20th in a Masters 1000 tournament, the first to achieve that honour.

Nadal’s victory was also his first ATP trophy since winning Roland Garros last June.

The Spanish winner now owns a 44-1 record in the principality, with titles in eight of his nine appearances. AFP