Monte Carlo Flashback: Rafael Nadal loses to Novak Djokovic in straight sets

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Monte Carlo Flashback: Rafael Nadal loses to Novak Djokovic in straight sets

After seven notable titles in 2013, Rafael Nadal started to lose ground in the following season. Nadal experienced a setback at the Australian Open and failed to lift the trophy in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. Rafa saved the season at Roland Garros, defeating Novak Djokovic and securing the ninth Parisian trophy.

Nadal had struggled in the rest of the season, wishing for a better start in 2015. Instead, the Spaniard claimed only three smaller titles that year and failed to win a Major for the first time in 11 years! Nadal also stayed empty-handed during his beloved clay-court tournaments in April and May, and it all started with the semi-final loss in Monte Carlo.

Novak Djokovic defeated Nadal 6-3, 6-3 for his second victory over the king of clay in the Principality within three years. It was Djokovic's fifth win over Nadal on the slowest surface, advancing into the title clash against Tomas Berdych.

Novak won all four encounters against Rafa that season and offered him no chance in Monte Carlo. The Serb was pumped and motivated to avenge the Roland Garros defeat from 12 months ago, and he beat Nadal for the seventh straight time.

Like no other player, Djokovic can tame Nadal's shots and keep the points on his racquet. Also, the Serb can stay in touch with the Spaniard in the more extended exchanges and break his weapons and rhythm in the shortest rallies to gain momentum.

Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Monte Carlo 2015.

Rafa did not play badly in this match, but it was not enough for a more favorable result, losing ground at 3-3 in both sets to hand the victory to his rival.

Nadal could not overtake Novak in the essential points or find some of his old magic to turn the scoreboard in his favor. Before this encounter, Djokovic had an enormous 15-2 lead in the meetings when he would keep Rafa under 50% of the second serve points won.

He did that again in Monte Carlo after reducing the Spaniard to 48% of the points earned after missing the first serve. Novak served at 75% and had troubles in three out of the first four service games. He fended off two out of three break chances to limit the damage and sailed through the last five games to keep his rival in the danger zone.

Nadal had a break chance in the grueling first set's seventh game, missing the opportunity and losing serve in the next one to give Novak the edge. Something similar happened in the seventh game of set number two when Rafa squandered five game points to suffer a break, which sealed his fate.

The crucial element in Novak's triumph was undoubtedly his backhand, like many times against Nadal. The Serb controlled the pace from the baseline and moved Rafa around the court to dictate the pace. The Spaniard had to hit many forehands from the ad court, and it was hard for him to go back to the deuce side and defend his backhand like he would have wanted.

Also, Novak dominantly tamed the rival's forehand, leaving one of the most brutal tennis shots without power or depth that would give Nadal the advantage in the exchanges. Rafa hit seven winners from his more substantial wing, but at the cost of 22 errors, 13 of those unforced!

Djokovic painted the court with his backhand, crushing them down the line to force Nadal's mistakes and drawing the opponent out of his comfort zone. They had a similar number of service winners (Novak hit 12 in comparison to Nadal's ten), and the Serb was 22-18 in front in the winners from the field, firing 11 from a forehand alone.

Novak settled into a nice rhythm after an opening couple of games, and they had a similar number of unforced errors (18-17). However, he forced Rafa's 15 forced mistakes, staying on only eight due to better court positioning and stronger groundstrokes.

Nadal had three double faults and was on a negative ratio with 28 winners and 35 errors against Novak's 34 winners and only 26 mistakes. Nothing could separate the rivals in the rallies with five strokes or more, with Nadal leading 31-30.

On the other hand, Novak earned his victory thanks to a dominant display in the shortest range up to four shots, ousting his opponent 39-23 in the quickest points to seal the deal in straight sets.

Rafael Nadal Novak Djokovic