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Nadal wins fifth title in a row at Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament on Sunday in Monaco.

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament on Sunday in Monaco.

MONACO – Rafael Nadal knows he won’t stay on top if he doesn’t strive to get better, even when playing on clay, his favorite surface.

The top-ranked Spaniard overcame an upset bid by Novak Djokovic on Sunday, beating the third-ranked Serbian 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 for his fifth straight Monte Carlo Masters title after losing a set here for the first time since the 2006 final against Roger Federer.

“Everyone can improve in every surface, no? No one is perfect. Sure, I can improve,” Nadal said. “I always work to improve because when you feel you can’t improve, is difficult to wake up and go on court and practice.”

Nadal is favored to also collect a fifth straight French Open title, but the way Djokovic swept Nadal aside in the second set, and the way No. 4 Andy Murray rallied back from 5-2 down to force a tie break in Saturday’s semifinal offers his rivals a glimmer of hope.

Nadal was unhappy with how he served, and plans to improve on it before heading to Roland Garros next month.

“This tournament I didn’t serve very well. Especially the second serve was sometimes 120 kph (74 mph). So that’s (a) disaster,” Nadal said. “Yeah, I have to play more. Have to serve better.”

Even so, he was delighted with his win.

“Always really important for me (to) start the clay season like this,” said Nadal, who won his third title this season after hard-court victories at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, Calif.

Lisicki wins title

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Sabine Lisicki of Germany beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4 to win the Family Circle Cup and her first tour title on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Lisicki, who is ranked No. 63 and bounced Venus Williams earlier in the tournament, consistently had serves around 120 mph at the tournament on the green clay at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

She scattered nine service aces during the match against Wozniacki, who was looking for her second straight tour victory after winning last week on clay at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

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