When Tomas Berdych defeated Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open in Melbourne this year he spared himself of the dubious distinction of loosing 18 matches in a row against a single opponent when he ended a string of 17 continuous losses to the Spaniard, he faces an equally daunting task as he attempts to claim his maiden title of the year against the unstoppable World number one Novak Djokovic in the final of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters 1000 at the Monte Carlo country club on Sunday.
The sixth seeded Czech continued his dominance of Gael Monfils as he notched his sixth win in seven meetings against the mercurial Frenchman who had caused the biggest upset of the tournament beating Roger Federer in the round of 16. The eventual scoreline was 6-1, 6-4 win for Berdych who entered his 4th ATP 1000 final of his career; his last appearance was on the experimental blue clay at the Mutua Madrid Masters 1000 in May 2012 when he lost to Roger Federer. He is now an impressive 27-6 for the year having reached the final of the ATP 250 event in Doha (loss to Ferrer) and ATP 500 event in Rotterdam (loss to Wawrinka) apart from a semi-final showing at the Australian Open ( loss to Murray). He was also a semi-finalist in Dubai and Miami ATP 1000 by Itau. Monfils meanwhile fell to 16-6 for the year.
The eagerly anticipated showdown between the 2013 champion Djokovic and the eight time champion Nadal who won every year from 2005 to 2012 briefly lived up to the expectations as Djokovic powered his way to his 33rd ATP 1000 final with a 6-3,6-3 win over the Spaniard who was attempting to reach his first ATP 1000 final since loosing to Djokovic in Rome last year. It was the first meeting between the two since Nadal claimed his record ninth French Open title in June last year at Roland Garros. Nadal broke serve in the first game of the match and even had chance to go 3-0 up with a double break, but once Djokovic survived the crisis and then he serve in a long 7th game of the first set the Spaniard barely showed glimpses of the form which won him 46 consecutive matches in Monte Carlo and a record 81 matches in April which was incidentally snapped by Djokovic in the 2013 final here. The head to head stands now at 23-20 in favour of Nadal in what is the longest rivalry in the Open Era. Djokovic is now 29-2 for the season and aims to become the first player in history to claim the first three Masters Super Series title in a year having already claimed the Indian Wells-Miami double for an unprecedented third time apart from winning his fifth Australian title and his eight major overall. A win will see him equal Federer’s tally of 23 ATP 1000 titles, but Nadal who dropped to 18-6 for the season being the all time leader with 27 titles.
The last time Djokovic and Berdych contested in a final was at the ATP 500 event in Beijing 2014 where Djokovic nearly double bageled, the only meeting between the pair in 2015 was at the semi-finals at the Dubai Dutyfree ATP 500 in February where the Serb also won the first set 6-0, however Berdych rallied from the brink to claim the second set 7-5 before the Serb closed out the match 6-4 in the third set. He leads Berdych 18-2 in career meetings having also won the last six between the two. Berdych’s only wins against Djokovic were in Rome ATP 1000 on clay and at Wimbledon 2010 on grass where he reached his only major grand slam final(loss to Nadal). Djokovic is the firm favourite but Berdych has little to loose.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]