Rafael Nadal recalls: ‘Novak Djokovic is an excellent player on every surface’

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were the opponents in the 2009 Monte Carlo Masters final. Nadal scored a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 victory after grueling two hours and 43 minutes for his fifth consecutive crown in the Principality. Rafa saves six out of 11 break chances and converts seven opportunities on the return to control the scoreboard in sets one and three and overpower a formidable opponent. Rafa beat Novak for the seventh time in as many encounters on clay, and he had to work hard to achieve that, with over 40 exchanges that saw ten strokes or more! Novak stayed in touch with Rafa in that segment, showing his fantastic court coverage and groundstrokes of the highest order that always demanded an extra shot from Nadal.

The Spaniard forged the advantage in the shortest and mid-range rallies and still had to give his best to emerge as a winner, needing almost an hour to grab the final set despite just seven games played! Novak tried to be aggressive, rushing to the net and imposing his shots but drawing almost 50 unforced errors that plagued his chances. After losing ground in the second set, Rafa overpowered Novak in an opening couple of games of the decider and brought the victory from there with a powerful performance in the last couple of games that forced the Serb to surrender. Praising his rival, Nadal said that Djokovic is a formidable rival on every surface who always gives his best and is very tough to beat. 

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in the 2009 Monte Carlo final.

“I started playing well after trailing 3-1, winning five games in a row. I had my chances at the beginning of the second set but did not use them. After that, I struggled with my serve and could not do much. I came back in the third set’s early game and played well in the rest of the set to emerge at the top. I was focused, despite some errors. I felt well physically and mentally in the third, with some passing shots and fewer mistakes. It’s important for me to start the clay season with a win; it’s good for my confidence. I never expected to claim five Monte Carlo titles; it’s one of the most important events, and some of the world’s best players have played here over the years. I made a debut here in 2003, and now I’m standing with five titles. Everything about this tournament is special. Novak is an excellent player on every surface and among the world’s best players on clay. Playing against him is never easy, and today was not an exception,” Rafael Nadal said.