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Monaco - Novak Djokovic kissed the clay and marveled at this sudden turn.
The top-ranked Serb won the Monte Carlo Masters, and for the first time in nine years the trophy belonged to someone other than Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard's record reign at this tournament ended Sunday with a 6-2, 7-6 (1) loss in the final.
"Rafa, thank you for allowing me to win it once," Djokovic said. "I couldn't ask for a better start to the clay season."
After closing the match with another booming forehand, Djokovic held his head in his hands and looked skyward before talking to himself for a few seconds. He dropped to the ground and planted a kiss. Last year, Djokovic's grandfather died during the tournament but he kept playing to reach the final.
Nadal won his 46 previous matches and the last eight titles at Monte Carlo - beating Djokovic in last year's final - and his last defeat in the event was to Guillermo Coria 10 years ago. Nadal missed the 2004 tournament because of injury before winning his first Monte Carlo title the following year.
Nadal then beat Roger Federer in the next three finals. His eight straight titles were an ATP record for one tournament.
"I cannot be happier than I am in this moment knowing what I've been through the whole week, actually two weeks," said Djokovic, who twisted his ankle two weeks ago playing for Serbia against the United States. "If somebody told me 10 days ago I'd be winning the trophy, I wouldn't think it's so realistic, to be honest."
Djokovic faced Nadal for the 16th time in a final, and they are now 8-8 in such matches. The Spaniard had won the previous three, including the French Open final last year.
"I think he played a little bit better than me, especially in the first set," Nadal said. "I felt that I was playing really well the second set and I was having more chances than him."
U.S. wins at Fed Cup
Venus Williams beat Johanna Larsson 6-3, 7-5 to give the United States an insurmountable 3-1 lead against Sweden in the Fed Cup World Group at Delray Beach, Fla.
The victory guarantees the U.S. a spot in the coveted 2014 Fed Cup World Group, while Sweden will play 2014 World Group II action.
Earlier in the day top-ranked Serena Williams boosted the U.S. to a 2-1 lead when she posted a 6-2, 6-1 win over 54th-ranked Sofia Arvidsson. The 21st-ranked Venus Williams was a last minute substitution for 16th-ranked Sloane Stephens in the fourth match.