A left knee injury had forced Rafael Nadal to miss the second part of the 2012 season before he bounced back stronger in 2013, winning ten titles, including two Majors and five Masters 1000 events to become the year-end no.
1 player for the first time in three years. Nadal returned at Vina del Mar in February, where he lost to Horacio Zeballos in a close final before going all the way to win Sao Paulo, Acapulco and Indian Wells, rattling off 18 wins in a row that led him towards another final in Monte Carlo.
Rafa made a debut in the Principality ten years ago and had been beaten only once by Guillermo Coria that year, still at 16. Starting from 2005, Nadal had won 46 consecutive matches and eight titles in Monte Carlo, with the streak coming to an end when Novak Djokovic took him down in 2013 final, beating the Spaniard 6-2, 7-6 in an hour and 52 minutes on April 21 for his first trophy at this tournament.
It was their 34th meeting and the first since Roland Garros last June, with Novak scoring the third win on clay over Rafa, all that after winning just four games in the final of the same tournament 12 months ago! Djokovic had won the Australian Open earlier that season.
However, he struggled to keep that form in Indian Wells and Miami, losing to Juan Martin del Potro and Tommy Haas and not making a great start in Monte Carlo either, having to come from a set down against Mikhail Youzhny and Juan Monaco.
Nonetheless, the Serb defeated both rivals and had a more straightforward job against Nieminen and Fognini to reach the title match, where he toppled Nadal thanks to an excellent return performance. Nadal broke Djokovic three times, but that wasn't enough for a more favorable result.
He lost serve five times from 12 break chances offered to the Serb and struggled to find the rhythm behind the initial shot despite the fact he landed 72% of the first serve in.
In 2013, Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal's Monte Carlo streak to steal title.
Nothing could separate them in the shortest rallies, and Novak forged the difference in the mid-range and more extended exchanges, controlling the pace from the baseline and overpowering Nadal with his deep and precise groundstrokes that the Spaniard found no answer for, especially in the opening set.
Djokovic made the best start, breaking in game two when Nadal wasted a few game points and holding after deuce a few minutes later to open a 3-0 lead. Rafa struggled to find the pace, and Novak created another break chance in the fourth game with a crosscourt backhand winner.
He converted it when the defending champion netted a backhand and sent himself 5-0 in front after just 25 minutes with an ace. The Spaniard had to save five set points to avoid an embarrassing bagel in game six, and Novak lost his rhythm a bit, netting an easy forehand to drop serve and allowing Nadal to reduce the deficit to 5-2.
The momentum didn't stay on Rafa's side for too long, though, hitting a double fault to drop serve for the third time and hand the opening set to Novak 6-2 after 46 minutes. Djokovic saved two break opportunities in the second set's third game to remain in front before spraying a backhand error to get broken next time around, trailing for the first time in the entire encounter.
Nadal held with a service winner to gain a 4-2 lead before Novak won eight of the following nine points for a smooth service game and a break in game eight when Nadal's backhand landed long. The Spaniard had a chance to send the match into a decider when he broke at 5-5, but it wasn't to be for him, as Novak erased the deficit with a break at love thanks to a backhand winner to set up a tie break.
Rafa made an unforced error to lose a point on serve early on and placed another groundstroke long to find himself 4-1 down. Nothing worked for the Spaniard, and Djokovic wrapped up the triumph with a forehand winner at 6-1, storming over Nadal to clinch the maiden Monte Carlo crown after losing finals against the same opponent in 2009 and 2012.
It was the 14th Masters 1000 crown for the Serb and the eighth different trophy from the premium ATP series, missing only Cincinnati to complete the Career Golden Masters, something he would achieve five years later.