Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet for the first time since last year’s French Open final when they compete for the Monte Carlo Masters title on Sunday.
It was Nadal that came out on top Roland Garros almost 11 months ago, while the Spaniard also vanquished Djokovic in the final in Monaco last year. In fact, Nadal is incredibly chasing a ninth straight title in the principality. He has not lost since his debut in the event 10 years ago, when he was aged just 16.
Nadal was eventually made to work in his semifinal as, leading 6-3, 5-1, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga found some momentum and came back to take the second set into a tiebreak. But the third seed prevailed 7-3 in the breaker and has explained his delight in continuing his record of having reached the final in every tournament since he returned in February from his seven-month layoff with a knee injury.
“It's great for me to be in the final," said Nadal, according to the ATP Tour website. "It's fantastic news, playing five tournaments in a row after injury, being in five finals in a row is great. I'm very happy for everything. We'll see tomorrow. It will be very tough.”
Djokovic certainly looked in fine form as he eased into the final on Saturday. Having struggled with an ankle injury recently suffered on Davis Cup duty, the Serbian cruised past unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-1 in the second semifinal.
And the world No. 1 is confident that he is mentally and physically prepared for taking on the “King of Clay.”
“Whenever you play Rafa, you know what to expect," Djokovic explained. "You expect the toughest challenge possible on clay. I'm ready for that. I'm very happy that physically, mentally, emotionally I have been improving as the tournament was going on. Each day I feel better on the court, more confident.”
Nadal leads the storied rivalry 19-14 heading into Sunday’s final, but his advantage is far greater pronounced in the pair’s clay-court meetings where the seven-time French Open champions holds a 12-2 winning record. Nadal won all three of their meetings on the dirt last year.
Where to watch: The final of the Monte Carlo Masters will get underway at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Tennis Channel, with a live stream provided by ESPN3.