Djokovic Edges Berdych To Reign Again

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic carved out another slice of history on Sunday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters as he defeated Tomas Berdych 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the final.

Victory sees Djokovic extend his winning streak to 17 matches in 2015, and become the first player to sweep the opening three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events of a season.

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The 27 year old entered Monte-Carlo on the back of completing the Indian Wells-Miami double for a third time and leaves the Principality with 23 Masters 1000 trophies, drawing level with Roger Federer for second on the titles list.

“I thought I won this match with my heart and with battle,” said Djokovic. “That’s how I feel like I won it. I don’t think I’ve played on the level that I wish to play and that I have played throughout the whole week. But also credit to Tomas, because he has played very aggressively, staying close to the line, pushing me back. So I had to defend a lot of times.

“Obviously I was just trying to stay with the right intensity and focus for each point because obviously you get tense when you’re not feeling so comfortable on the court, when you start missing, you kind of back up. I had to adjust my position and movement on the court several times.

“In the end I’m sitting here with this trophy that is very special to me, of course. This is what matters. Sometimes winning ugly is necessary. It’s been a remarkable start of the season for me. Of course, couldn’t ask for a better start of clay court season.

“The fact that I live here and that I practise in this very court where I played the match today, that kept me going, and of course the fact that we are fighting for a big title. I’m just thrilled that I was able to make that final step.”

The Belgrade native lifted the trophy at the Monte-Carlo Country Club for the second time in four final appearances. After finishing runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the 2009 and 2012 title matches, Djokovic triumphed in 2013 with victory over Nadal. He has a 28-7 record at the tournament.

Djokovic went into the final having won 18 of his previous 20 meetings with Berdych, but the Czech pushed Djokovic all the way in a rain-hit finale.

Berdych was fast out the blocks, breaking Djokovic in the first game, but the top seed came back strongly, winning four straight games from 1-3 down to give himself the chance to serve out the opener. Berdych stopped Djokovic’s momentum briefly, breaking the Serb in the ninth game, but Djokovic secured a third break in the 12th game as he converted his third set point.

Rain started falling in the third game of the second set, and forced players off court for an hour shortly after, with Djokovic having just rallied from 0/40 down to hold for 3-2. On their return, Berdych came out firing, mixing up his shot placement to direct more at Djokovic’s forehand, and it paid dividends. After saving a break point in the sixth game, the Czech broke Djokovic to lead 4-3 and went on to level the match.

But Berdych could not maintain his high level and Djokovic pounced. The right-hander raced to a 4-0 lead in the third set. Berdych recouped one of the breaks, and had the chance to get the second back in the seventh game, but he was denied by Djokovic, who held on to claim victory in two hours and 43 minutes.

The 27-year-old Djokovic has a 30-2 record on the season, also winning his eighth Grand Slam championship at the Australian Open (d. Murray).

Meanwhile, Berdych was bidding to win his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown in 10 years, since triumphing at the 2005 BNP Paribas Masters in Paris Bercy. The Czech dropped to a 10-17 finals record, having also finished runner-up earlier this year in Rotterdam and Doha.

“I left him a big gap in the third set,” said Berdych. “That was the decider, definitely. It was really just about a couple of points that didn’t go my way. He defended them very well. That’s basically all what was the difference. I mean, I was making him run all the way through those three sets. There was just a couple of things that didn’t go as I would like to. That made the difference today.

“I was a break ahead in the first set, and I lost the set. I won the second set. Basically I could easily be sitting here in a different position if you want to say it like that, as well. That’s tennis. That’s the sport. Even if the things don’t go your way, then you have to stay focused, keep your self belief, keep working hard, keep trying to battle, try to come back.”

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