Barry Cowan: Novak Djokovic dug deep to beat Rafa Nadal in Monte Carlo
Last Updated: 23/04/13 12:02pm
Djokovic: ended Nadal's monopoly of the Monte Carlo Masters with 6-2 7-6 win
Barry Cowan hailed Novak Djokovic's valour after the Serb brought Rafa Nadal's dominance at the Monte Carlo Masters to an end.
Nadal had won the tournament eight consecutive times since 2005 and swept aside Djokovic in the 2012 final 6-3 6-1, but he received a straight sets humbling of his own on Sunday as his 46-match unbeaten streak in Monaco came a to a halt.
Djokovic raced into a 5-0 lead in the first set before eventually seizing it 6-2, and then went on to land his maiden Monte Carlo crown by winning a tiebreak in the second after Nadal had served for the set at 6-5.
The world number one has now plucked eight of the nine Masters 1000 series events - only the Cincinnati crown eludes him - and Sky Sports pundit Cowan had high praise for the way Djokovic dug deep to land victory.
"It is game on now and the next time Novak and Rafa meet we won't be sure who will win."
"Novak has always felt like he has the winning shots against Rafa - he can hit forehands and backhands down the line - but he has great courage now," he said.
"It seemed like he was on an emotional downer in the second set when Rafa got ahead and it looked like he was struggling physically, too - but he always has a little bit more in the tank.
"When Rafa broke and served for the second set I don't think too many people thought he could come back, but he broke to love and carried the momentum through.
"Novak was resilient throughout this tournament and he is only going to get better - but Rafa won't be pressing the panic button just yet as he has tournaments to play in the lead up to the French Open.
"This is the result the neutrals wanted as if Rafa had won people would have said he will dominate up to and at Roland Garros, but now it is game on and the next time Novak and Rafa meet we won't be sure who will win."
Former British number one Greg Rusedski, meanwhile, believes the way Djokovic was able to control Nadal's venomous shots in Monaco bodes well in his pursuit of the French Open title, the only Grand Slam the Serb has been unable to secure.
But the Canadian-born Brit, who reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in 1999, does not see too many other players with the capability to thwart Nadal on the red dirt of Paris.
"It was a sensational match from Djokovic," said Rusedski. "At the start he couldn't have played much better and when Nadal got his teeth into it and was twice up a break in the second set, Djokovic showed us why he is world number one.
"He lifted his game and stayed with Rafa, something I'm not sure Roger [Federer] or Andy [Murray] believe they can do on a clay court, point after point and set after set.
"Novak is able to choose when he attacks and when he doesn't and is able to soak up Nadal's power - but we need to see him do that over five sets to decide who the fittest player on the ATP Tour is.
"Either way, it is hard not to see one of Novak and Rafa being the 'King of Clay' this year."