MONTE CARLO, Monaco: Novak Djokovic set another career record on Sunday (Monday in Manila) with his second Monte Carlo title, as the Serb became the first man to win the opening three Masters 1000 events in a season through a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 defeat of Tomas Berdych.
The top seed, who lives just a few hundred meters away from the centre court, had to survive a comeback from his Czech rival as well as a 70-minute rain interruption which came as he led by a set and 3-2 on serve in the second.
Djokovic’s victory was his 17th straight win of the season and also marked a fourth straight Masters 1000 title after also winning at Paris Bercy on November.
“I won this match with my heart and with battle,” said Djokovic. “I don’t think I played on the level that I wish to play and that I have played throughout the whole week.
“But 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.
“It was a battle,” said the 2013 Monte Carlo winner, who was frustrated as he committed 38 unforced errors and lost his first set of the week while converting on only five of 14 break points.
Djokovic now owns 52 career titles and 23 at the elite Masters level. He stands 19-2 over Berdych and 30-2 this season.
Berdych missed a chance to move up to a career-best number four in the world.
“By the result, I’m very disappointed. But by feeling, it’s quite good. I’m fit. There is no issues with that,” said Berdych.
“I’m on the right track, I still need to keep working on it and keep improving myself.
“We are three or four months into the new things that I’ve been working on. It’s very clear on the results on the matches that they are there, they are the right things.
“I just need to keep doing that and keep pushing myself, being better and better.”
Djokovic won the opening set comfortably but was unable to come back after the rain break and close it out in straight sets.
Instead, Berdych got the early momentum upon the return and levelled at a set each.
In the third, Djokovic again seized the initiative, going up two breaks only to lose one of them.
Berdych saved a match point, holding for 3-5 with an overhead winner. But Djokovic prevailed a game later as the Czech’s service return sailed just long over the baseline.
“I came on the court today hoping and wanting, of course, to play as well as I played throughout the whole week,” said Djokovic. “I played my best match and best tennis in the week against Nadal yesterday. Maybe I was a little bit also mentally exhausted coming into this match.”