MONTE-CARLO, Monaco - Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal's dreams of a record ninth successive Monte Carlo Masters title with a 6-2 7-6 (7-1) victory in the final on Sunday.
The world No.1 had been a doubtful starter this week with an injured ankle but played through the pain to lift his first trophy in the principality, the 37th of his career and 14th at the Masters 1000 level.
It was also a huge psychological boost ahead of next month's French Open where Nadal is a record seven-time champion.
Nadal had reigned supreme at the Monte Carlo Country Club since his last loss in 2003, when he was still a teenager, and had won every edition since 2005.
Djokovic, who achieved the win in one hour, 51 minutes, was overwhelmed.
"I cannot be happier than I am in this moment knowing what I've been through the whole week, actually two weeks, right after the Davis Cup, trying to recover and make a decision to play or not to play," admitted Australian Open champion Djokovic.
"If somebody told me 10 days ago I'd be winning the trophy, I wouldn't think it's so realistic, to be honest.
"I went through pain, I went through a big challenge, mentally, physically, emotionally, and in the end it was getting better as the tournament was going on. I can't ask for a better start to the clay season."
Nadal, who returned to tennis in February after seven months out with a knee injury, now stands 38-6 in clay finals, losing to only three players — Djokovic (three times) Roger Federer (twice) and Horacio Zeballos (once).
Before the final, the Spaniard had lost only one set all week after playing in his fifth straight final since his return to the circuit.