I had the pleasure of watching a player who was entirely confident and relaxed, who thrived on the pressure of facing Nadal.
Even if Rafa is a huge fighter and pushed the Serb to a tie-break in the second set, I never felt at any moment that the Mallorcan had control over his destiny. Djokovic dominated the conversation.
Rafa has suffered a number of damaging defeats inflicted by Djokovic since 2011. For two years he has been hurt by Djokovic's remarkable resilience and has developed a bit of a complex when playing him - just as Roger Federer once did when Nadal first came on the scene.
Since the start of the Monte Carlo Masters, Nadal had not quite looked his usual dominant self, and his confidence looked vulnerable to being shaken by the best players.
For those reasons, Djokovic knew he had to make an impression from the very start of the match, and he hit some beautiful shots while being aggressive and opportunistic.
He forced Rafa to play on the back foot and punished him for it. The Mallorcan was guilty of more unforced errors than usual.
Djokovic reached a very high level. His tactical decisions were always well-considered and he found the correct length and angles of attack to leave Nadal short. He exploited every opportunity that came his way.
His level was so high that he reminded me of the great Djokovic of 2011. It was not entirely expected that he would perform to such a level because he had been disappointing in Indian Wells and Miami.
But the presence of his coach, Marian Vajda, who was absent for the tournaments in America, helped him to relax. The fact he also saw this tournament as a bonus, as he didn't think he would win it, also served to inspire him.
Even when he was on the defensive in this match he knew exactly how to take control again, and go on the offensive once more.
- Sports & Recreation
- Novak Djokovic
- Rafael Nadal