Rafa Reigns Again In Monte-Carlo
Rafael Nadal captured his ninth Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters crown on Sunday as he defeated Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 in an enthralling final on Court Ranier III.
With H.S.H. Prince Albert II and his wife, Princess Charlene of Monaco, watching on, Nadal claimed a record-equalling 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown and his first for almost two years.
The 29-year-old Nadal reclaimed the title that he won at the Monte-Carlo Country Club from 2005-2012. His 46-match winning streak in Monte-Carlo was finally ended in the 2013 final by Novak Djokovic.
“It has been a very important week for me,” said Nadal. “Is obvious, I say at the beginning of the season, I feel myself much better than the year before.
“The victory here confirms that I am better and I am very happy. Is very, very emotional week for me, very important event. Probably Monte-Carlo is one of the most important places in my career without any doubt.
“To win again here after three years is something so special for me. So very happy for that. I am enjoying emotionally.
“I know I worked hard to have this trophy with me. I am enjoying this moment. It’s an emotional moment after some tough moments. But that’s part of the life, is part of the sports in general.
“Today winning nine times here is something unbelievable for me.”
Victory marked Nadal’s first ATP World Tour title since lifting the trophy in Hamburg in July 2015 (d. Fognini).
In a battle full of twists and turns, Nadal ultimately prevailed over Monfils in two hours and 46 minutes. Monfils has made his most consistent start yet to a season, and caused Nadal no end of trouble with his incredible defence and point-clinching shot-making.
But the Frenchman’s legs ultimately ran out in the decider as Nadal’s continued pounding from the baseline eventually took its toll. The Spaniard fell to his knees as he celebrated a longed-for victory after a trying 18 months on the ATP World Tour.
“The third set, after a super long two first sets, was a tough set for both of us,” said Nadal. “I was able to increase little bit the level of intensity, the level of tennis in general. That’s why I have the trophy with me.
“But Gael was playing great. He’s playing well since the beginning of the season. He’s in a very high position in the race. That’s difficult. I think he’s No. 5 in the race now. It’s something great.”
“Suddenly in the third set he increased his power and accelerated and I just didn’t cope,” said Monfils. “I felt good. But when the other player is the best, you have to recognise it. Of course, you can see the score, 6-0. He was a lot better. He was relaxed, hitting hard. I felt he was really in control. Congratulations to him.”
Appearing in his 100th tour-level final, Nadal clinched his 68th title. The left-hander is the sixth player in the Open Era to reach a century of finals on the ATP World Tour. After laying his hands on his 48th clay-court crown, Nadal is now just one trophy away from drawling level with Open Era clay title leader Guillermo Vilas.
The 29-year-old Monfils was bidding to win his first Masters 1000 crown after runner-up finishes in Paris in 2009 (l. to Djokovic) and 2010 (l. to Soderling). The Parisian has compiled a 20-6 match record in 2016, also reaching the final in Rotterdam (l. to Klizan) and the quarter-finals at the Australian Open (l. to Raonic), as well as in Indian Wells (l. to Raonic) and Miami (l. to Djokovic).
He dropped to a 5-19 finals record, with nine of those defeats coming against Top 10 players.
“I’m feeling good,” said Monfils. “I’m not trying to assess the tournaments here and there. I just want to continue the work I’m doing, which is good work. I’m trying to improve my intensity in the tournaments match after match. I try to play better and develop better tennis. I even try also to feel better. Today, unless I’m mistaken, I believe this final was a beautiful final. It was a high level of tennis. That’s good.”