ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Fernando Verdasco stuns Novak Djokovic to set Nadal clash

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ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Fernando Verdasco stuns Novak Djokovic to set Nadal clash

In 2009, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played for the title in Monte Carlo and everyone expected them in another final a year later after they both reached the semis. Nadal took down David Ferrer to advance into the sixth straight title match in the Principality but Novak wasn't there to follow him, suffering an unexpected 6-2, 6-2 loss to Fernando Verdasco in an hour and 32 minutes.

Verdasco had reached nine Masters 1000 quarter-finals at the Masters 1000 level before Monte Carlo, losing them all and still seeking the first semi-final run at the premium ATP series. That all changed when he ousted Albert Montanes in three sets, passing that barrier and setting the clash against Novak Djokovic where he produced one of the most excellent displays in a career to move into the first Masters 1000 final.

The Serb defeated the Spaniard in the previous five meetings and was the favorite in this one as well, only to experience the worst loss of the season. Serving at 78%, Fernando dropped 15 points in eight service games, fending off two out of three break chances against one of the best returners in the world and dominating on the return to create 12 break points, seizing five to dominate from start to finish and race into the final.

In one of his worst performances ever, Djokovic had less than ten winners and more than 40 unforced errors, never finding the rhythm or way to impose his shots and seize control. On the other hand, Verdasco tamed his strokes nicely, dominating in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to leave the top seed far behind and stay on the title course.

Novak saved a break chance in the first game and closed it with a service winner to avoid an early setback, squandering two break points in the next game that Verdasco brought home with a forehand winner to level the score at 1-1.

After two commanding holds on both sides, Djokovic hit a double fault to get broken and send the opponent 3-2 up, netting an easy forehand in the next game and allowing Fernando to secure the advantage and open a 4-2 gap.

Missing one stroke after another, Novak gave serve away at love in the seventh game before Verdasco clinched the opener with a service winner a few minutes later for a 6-2 after 40 minutes of play. Struggling behind the initial shot big time, Djokovic lost serve at 1-1 in set number two, pulling it back in the very next one following a forehand mistake from Fernando to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard.

The Spaniard landed a perfect backhand in the game that followed to earn another break and regain the lead, holding at 15 with an ace to move 4-2 in front and take a big step towards the finish line. With nothing left in the tank on that terrible day, Novak sprayed a backhand mistake to experience another break, with Verdasco sealing the deal after hold in game eight for a perfect day at the office and the place in the final against the five-time champion Rafael Nadal.