In the semifinal of 2015 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, two great players from the Big-Four Club squared off against one another on Saturday for the 43rd time and first since 2014 Roland Garros final. It was always going to be the mind game more than tennis skills on court. Finally, Novak Djokovic prevailed over Rafael Nadal despite the Spaniard playing aggressive tennis early in their match. The Serb improved his winning streak to 16 matches and stayed on course to take his fourth ATP 1000 Masters Tournament in a row. Incidentally, Nadal is the only other player to have ever won four Masters 1000 titles in a row in 2013. On Saturday, the two living legends of men’s tennis tested each other with Nadal breaking early in the first set to hold advantage but the Serbian world no.1 stopped him in his tracks and reeled off point after point to win the first set. In the second Nadal just couldn’t stand the fantastic baseline-machine game from Djokovic and lost 3-6, 3-6. The score-line, however, does not tell the true story of the battle between two of the world’s best tennis players.
In the quarterfinal on Friday, Djokovic had an easy victory over Croatia’s Marin Cilic, whom he beat 6-0, 6-3 to make it 12-0 against him overall. The Serb began strongly to win the first 8 games of the match that included the first-set beagle and a 2-0 lead in the second. A slight loss of concentration on Djokovic’s part allowed Cilic three games out of last seven in the second set. On his part, Nadal had a tough three-set match with an unyielding compatriot David Ferrer.
There was tremendous interest and spectator involvement in Djokovic-Nadal semifinal. The two have played so many times that they know each other’s game pretty well. Therefore, the contest came down to the status of a brain-game between the two. Nadal began solidly and broke Djokovic early to take a 2-0 lead in the first set. Not only that, the Spaniard had another break point on Djokovic’s serve and stood on the verge of a 3-0 lead. Djokovic was definitely in trouble but he staved off the break point somehow. It was an important game because it brought the Serb back into his rhythm. Then he reeled off every remaining game in the set to win 6-3 in 43 minutes. The top seed changed his tactics for the second set and began moving the Spaniard by his baseline game. It was an onslaught that proved too tiring for the Spaniard, who is considered as the run-around forehand specialist. Yet again, Djokovic and Nadal were locked at 3-3 in the second set and the Serb once again won three game on the trot and finished everything. The score-line fails to tell us about the super-charged mind-game played by Djokovic in the second set, where he broke Nadal, when he was serving 3-3. It could have gone either way but the Serb knew what needed to be done. After he broke that seventh game, he broke yet again with Nadal serving at 5-3.
Djokovic will meet Tomas Berdych in the final on Sunday. In his semifinal match against Frenchman Gael Monfils, the Czech dominated play and ended Monfils’ sensational run during which he beat no.2 seed Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov. The 2015 season has gone on pretty well for Berdych thus far as he finished runners-up at the Qatar Open and at Rotterdam. Against Monfils he broke in the first set to take a 3-1 lead and then didn’t allow any more game to the French showman. Though the Czech dropped his serve in the second game of the second set, he bounced back to take the match 6-1, 6-4. Berdych’s dominance in the match is signified by his 21 winners and with 33 points out of 54 points having been won in under five strokes.
The men’s doubles final will feature USA’s top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan playing against Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini. In their semifinal matches, the Bryans beat the pair of Marcin Matkowski/Nenad Zimonjic 6-4, 6-2, while Bolelli/Fognini defeated no.2 seeds Ivan Dodig/Marcelo Melo 7-6, 6-3.