Djokovic Takes Nadal's Monte Carlo Crown
Novak Djokovic ended one of the most remarkable winning streaks in sport after taking Rafael Nadal's Monte Carlo Masters crown on Sunday.
Nadal had been seeking to win the clay tournament for the ninth successive year, but fell to his first defeat in the principality since 2003 as the Serbian underlined his status as the world's top tennis player with a 6-2 7-6 (7-1) victory in one hour 52 minutes.
It halted Nadal's 46-match winning run, and was the Spaniard's second defeat in five finals since making his comeback from knee injury in Chile in February.
"It's such a great pleasure to win here, it's very special," said Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo.
"Rafa, thanks for allowing me to win here at least once. I can't ask for a better start to the clay season."
Nadal, who had been sidelined for seven months, has now lost six of his 44 clay finals -- three of them to Djokovic, who will be hoping to stop the 11-time grand slam champion defending his French Open title when the season's second major starts at the end of this month.
The 25-year-old now has a 15-19 record against Nadal, whose last defeat on clay during the month of April was back in 2005.
"What Novak is doing is just amazing," said Nadal, known as the "King of Clay."
"Congratulations for winning my favorite event and all the best for the rest of your season.
"Last year was especially hard for me, but I had the support of my team and my fans. That was a very positive energy for me and gave me motivation to play here again."
Djokovic has also overcome recent injury problems, having been a doubt for Monte Carlo after hurting his ankle on Davis Cup duty.
"If somebody told me 10 days ago I'd be winning the trophy, I wouldn't think it's so realistic, to be honest," he said.
"I went through pain, I went through a big challenge, mentally, physically, emotionally, and in the end it was getting better as the tournament was going on."
Sunday's final was delayed by almost 45 minutes due to rain, but when play finally got under way it was Djokovic who took charge, losing just 12 points in the first five games and then wrapping up the set when Nadal double-faulted.
The second set was a lot tighter, and featured four breaks of serve, but Djokovic retained his composure to comfortably win the tie-break and earn the 37th title of his career and his 14th at Masters level -- eight behind Nadal's leading 22.
Djokovic had been beaten by the 26-year-old Nadal in the 2009 and 2012 finals in Monte Carlo.
Last year he lost in straight sets just days after the death of his grandfather.
Meanwhile, Russia booked a place in the final of the women's Fed Cup competition after overturning a 2-0 deficit against Slovakia in Moscow on Sunday -- becoming the first team to ever do so.
Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina won the deciding doubles rubber, beating Dominika Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova 4-6 6-3 6-1 in two and a half hours.
Maria Kirilenko had earlier kept Russia in the semifinal, winning 7-5 6-1 against Cibulkova before
Makarova leveled the scores with a 6-3 4-6 6-4 win over Hantuchova.
The Russians, seeking a fifth title, will play either the Czech Republic or Italy in November's final.
The Czechs, two-time defending champions, stayed alive after Petra Kvitova beat Sara Errani 2-6 6-2 6-0 in the only match possible due to a rain delay.
The tie will be completed on Monday, when Roberta Vinci can put Italy through by beating Lucie Safarova in the second reverse singles rubber.