The World No 1 had been a doubtful starter this week with an injured ankle but played through the pain to lift his first trophy in the principality, the 37th of his career and 14th at the Masters 1000 level. It was also a huge psychological boost ahead of next month’s French Open where Nadal is a record seven-time champion.
Nadal had reigned supreme at the Monte Carlo Country Club since his last loss in 2003, when he was still a teenager, and had won every edition since 2005.
Djokovic, who achieved the win in one hour, 51 minutes, was overwhelmed to have beaten the king of clay.
“It’s such a great pleasure to win here, it’s very special,” said the Serb who is based in the principality. “I live here and love this event Rafa, it was a pleasure again, thanks for allowing me to win here at least once,” he joked during the trophy ceremony.
“I can’t ask for a better start to the clay season.” The winner admitted that the ankle he rolled earlier this month had been a huge concern. “I didn’t know if I could be a part of this year. But I made the decision to play — and it was the best decision I’ve made in my life.”
Nadal, who returned to tennis in February after seven months out with a knee injury, stands 38-6 in clay finals, losing to only three players — Djokovic (three times) Roger Federer (twice) and Horacio Zeballos (once). Before the final, the Spaniard had lost only one set all week after playing in his fifth straight final since his return to the circuit.