Djokovic is now riding a 16-match winning streak and is on course to capture four straight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. Nadal, 53-4 at the Monte-Carlo County Club, was aiming to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in 11 months ago, since the Internazionali BNL d'Italia (l. to Djokovic).
ATPWorldTour.com provides set-by-set analysis of their 43rd FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, which represented their first clash since June 2014, when Nadal beat Djokovic in the Roland Garros final.
Each round Nadal’s confidence had grown, so at the start of the match expectations were high. Would Djokovic, the form player in the first three months of 2015, be tested? The answer was yes. In the first game, Nadal recovered from a mis-hit forehand to break Djokovic to 30, coming to the net for a backhand volley winner. On the court where Djokovic trains, year-round, it was a signal of intent. His game yet to click into place, Djokovic went from 30/15 to 30/40 at 1-2, posting two backhand errors. But his occasional forays to the net and aggressive tactics, reaped dividends in the next game, when he broke Nadal to 30.
Back on level terms, Djokovic began to target Nadal's backhand. The standard of play was extreme, often frightening, in an 11-minute seventh game, which saw Djokovic save one break point. His greater weight of shots, into the corners, paid off as Nadal was over-stretched. Nadal's game began to unravel at 3-4, when he dropped to 15/40. Although he won one break point, a deep backhand return from Djokovic caught Nadal off guard and he struck his response into the net. With a 5-3 lead, Djokovic closed out the 43-minute opener to 30. Nadal battled to the end.
Djokovic playing on, or inside, the baseline, withstood a stern examination of his backhand, to create two break point chances in the opening game. Nadal remained aggressive, to win four points in a row, for a vital hold. But the length of the left-hander's strokes, particularly his backhand, was a concern. Djokovic capitalised on a number of mid-court balls, but he could not make the breakthrough.
Nadal showed flashes of peak performance, but at 3-3 he went from leading 40/0 to losing four points in a row. Despite the concentration lapse, on break point, Nadal was at his vintage best. He clawed his way out on two occasions, when the point appeared lost. Nadal saved another break point, on the 17th point of the game, with an ace. Two successive forehand errors from Nadal handed Djokovic a 4-3 lead.
Nadal saved one match point at 3-5, 30/40, when Djokovic chased down a drop shot only to fire his response at Nadal, who volleyed back for a deep winner. Minutes later, Djokovic created a second opportunity with a fine forehand return winner down the line. Djokovic earned his 29th match win of the season, for a spot in his fourth Monte-Carlo final, with a backhand winner into space. It was an outstanding performance, won in one hour and 38 minutes.
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