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Sure as day follows night and spring follows winter, Rafael Nadal would sweep up during the clay court tennis season – until now.

The Spaniard saw his mammoth 46-match winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters blown away by world number Novak Djokovic in a performance that suggests a sea change is afoot at the top of the men’s game.

There are, of course, extenuating circumstances, Nadal has been sidelined for seven months thanks to niggling injury problems in both knees – a condition that saw him miss two majors and the Olympic games.

Indeed it was even asked whether he would play again given the severity of the problem. When Nadal did return though, such was his dominance on clay; even a lack of match practice was not expected to hinder his progress. His passage though to the final of this tournament was fairly serene and suggested he was edging his way back to fitness. He began the final as warm favourite in the Tennis betting with the status quo expected to continue.

Djokovic, however, was in no mood to test that theory and appeared determined to avenge his 6-3 6-1 defeat in last year’s final.

The Serb flew out of the blocks and was close to inflicting a first ever 6-0 defeat for Nadal, who saved five set points but was unable to prevent losing the set 6-2.

The second set was much more even with Nadal forcing his way into a 6-5 advantage. But any hope of a tie-winning break was ruthlessly quashed by a fearsome Djokovic, who won his service game to force the tiebreak, which he then won convincingly 7-1.

It brought to an end Nadal’s eight-year winning streak at the tournament and is the perfect preparation for Djokovic ahead of the French Open next month click here for more info).

For Nadal is must be encouraging to be simply back on the tennis court, but this defeat may be significant in that it signals the end of his domination on clay.
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