"It's been a tough week, not just for me but for everybody in my family," Djokovic told reporters after the match. "We're going through this together. In the end, I played the final and I'm really happy for that."
Still, it was a vitally important match for Nadal and he won it playing classic ground-and-pound tennis. He took control of points, mixed up the pace, used his expertise on clay to extend rallies with retrieving, and, above all, he served sensationally. (Nadal made 26 first serves, winning 22 of those points.) Nadal loses this match and it could have been devastating. It would have marked the eighth straight defeat to Djokovic; on clay; at an event Nadal had previously dominated; with Djokovic distracted by a death in a family. But beating Djokovic for the first time since 2010 and starting off his clay season -- his annual points pilgrimage -- with a victory, Nadal was thrilled.
"It was very important to break the bad (losing streak). So was important to win the tournament another time," Nadal said. "Break that situation, winning a Masters 1000, one of my favorites, everything's perfect today."
Still, they played matches last weekend and Serbia and the defending champion Czechs advanced to meet for the final. Jelena Jankovic has been having a dismal year (or three) but clinched the tie for Serbia against Russia by besting Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-4. Petra Kvitova won both her singles rubbers to lead the Czechs over Italy. The U.S. team was relegated to the World Group playoffs but had no problem with the Ukrainians, sweeping the tie 5-0. Serena Williams led the way. See here for all the results.