Is the King of Clay’s crown in jeopardy?

Yesterday the eargerly awaited first Masters final on clay of the year was played at Monte Carlo. As expected, Rafael Nadal had marched into the final but, quite surprisngly, lost his incredible 8 year record at the tournament to Novak Djokovic. It was the pair’s first meeting since the fantastic French Open final last year.

The world number 1 was the quickest out the blocks and raced to a 5-0 lead. After holding out a number of set points Rafa broke and held to pull two games back, it turned out to be a mere consulation as the Serb eventually won the opening set 6-2 in little under 50 minutes. Djokovic looked superb in the first set and was evidently up for unsettling Rafa’s position on the clay throne.

An early second set break for the Spanaird brought cause for optimism for the Rafa faithful, who were delighted that he lead 4-2 as the set approached cruch time. Doubters of this year’s Australian Open champion were proved wrong when he fought back to level at 4-4. More even action made the set go into a tie-break tightly poised but with Nadal knowing that it’d be game, set, match and championship to his opponent if he failed to win the tie-break. It was clear that Nadal had his crown closer to falling off. The tie-break concluded pretty quickly and was a stright forward 7-1 victory for Novak Djokovic, who consequently won the match 6-2 7-6 to win his first Monte Carlo Masters title.

A reign of 8 years and a run of 46 consecuative wins was over for Nadal, who should still remain on the throne for his unbelievable record over the years on the suface but should be equally concerned that Djokovic has his sights on catching up when it comes to all things clay. There were major concerns over Djokovic’s ankle going into the first Masters event on clay after he injured it during Serbia duty in the Davis Cup. His coach even advised him not to compete in Monaco, not taking that has proved a good decision for the 25-year old.

After the conclusion of matches at the event the rankings have had another re-shuffle. Britain’s Andy Murray is back down to being the world number 3 after only managing to reach the second round, Roger Federer has recalimed the number 2 spot as a result. The 1000 points have extended Djokovic’s lead at the top to nearly 4000 points above Swiss master Federer, who is next back in action at the Madrid Open in early May to defend his title there and begin his clay season. Italian Fabio Fagnini is the biggest mover in the newly-published world rankings. After reaching the semi-finals in Monte Carlo he rises from 32 to the new world number 24. Finalist Nadal remains as the world number 5 and is less than 1000 points behind fellow countryman David Ferrer, who currently occupies the number 4 position.

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