For the third straight year, Rafael Nadal failed to claim the trophy in Monte Carlo, losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-final and allowing the Serb to fight for the title against Tomas Berdych. It was the most notable Masters 1000 result for Tomas since Madrid 2012, giving his best to go all the way but falling 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 43 minutes, propelling Djokovic towards the second Monte Carlo title in three years.
It was the 21st clash between these two and the 19th triumph for the Serb who lifted the fourth title of the season after the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami, securing the fourth straight Masters 1000 crown to extend his dominance at that level of competition.
Novak knew how to play against Tomas in their previous matches but this was one of the toughest challenges against the Czech, winning just two points more overall and prevailing with an extra break on his tally. Serving at only 44%, Tomas had to play against 14 break chances, suffering five breaks and earning four from ten opportunities on the return to fall short in the battle that saw more than 90 unforced errors in total as neither could find the rhythm.
Berdych stayed in touch with Djokovic in the quickest and most extended rallies, losing ground a little bit in the mid-range exchanges with five to eight strokes, unable to climb back after trailing 4-0 in the decider. Novak lost serve at 15 in the opening game of the match, with Tomas holding at 15 to cement the advantage and move 2-0 in front.
Hitting with depth and precision, Berdych forced an error from Djokovic in the fourth game to remain in front before spraying a forehand error two games later to suffer a break and bring Novak back to 3-3. With momentum on his side, Djokovic stole the rival's serve in the eighth game to move in front before netting a forehand while serving for the set, getting broken and keeping the Czech in the opener.
Tomas' efforts were in vain though, losing serve once again at 5-6 to hand the set to Novak after 53 minutes, not being able to find the right shots when he needed them the most, as usual against the opponents from the top.
The rain halted the action for more than an hour after the fifth game of the second set, with Berdych surviving the first game after the return to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard. The Czech gained a break in the next game after spreading Djokovic around the baseline, holding with a forehand winner for a 5-3 lead and securing the set with another comfortable hold in game ten for a 6-4 and the deciding set.
From 40-15 up, Tomas lost four straight points on serve in the second game of the third set after a forehand error, spraying another mistake from his backhand in the next one to find himself 3-0 down. With his strong defense, Novak secured another break in game four to extend the advantage, losing serve in the next game thanks to a smash winner from Berdych who at least reduced the deficit.
Tomas fended off two break chances in the next game and fired a backhand down the line winner in game seven to earn a break opportunity that could have changed things completely. Djokovic saved it with a service winner and held with another one to bring the game home and open a 5-2 gap.
Berdych saved a match point with a smash winner on his serve to prolong the action before Novak sealed the deal with a service winner in game nine to lift the second Monte Carlo trophy in three years.