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King of the Principality! Nadal’s dominance in Monte-Carlo


This story is courtesy of ATPTour.com.

Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented success at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters has solidified him as the undisputed king of the Principality. It is a rare feat that a player tallies more titles than losses at one event, but that’s exactly what the 37-year-old has achieved at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Nadal, an 11-time champion in Monte-Carlo, boasts a 73-6 tournament record, including a 46-match winning streak spanning from 2005-2013.

Ahead of Nadal’s 18th appearance in Monte-Carlo, ATPTour.com looks at five of his most memorable title runs at the season’s first clay-court Masters 1000.

2005 – Teen Dream

An 18-year-old Nadal, sporting an orange tank top and ‘shorts’ that extended below his knees, captivated the world’s attention in 2005, when he arrived in Monte-Carlo a week after making his Top 20 debut in the PIF ATP Rankings.

The teenage sensation was generating heavy RPMs on his lefty forehand, forcing the ball to jump off the clay and make opponents hit above their shoulder. Nadal finished the week lifting his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title, defeating Argentine Guillermo Coria in the final — during which he recovered from getting bagelled in the third set — to win 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5.

“It is my first big title. [I thought I was] very happy when I won the Davis Cup, but now this is unbelievable,” said Nadal, who the next month won his first major title in his Roland Garros debut and finished the year at No. 2 after a career-best 11 trophies in one season.

2010 – Relentless Rafa

Nadal arrived as the ‘up-and-coming’ star in 2005, but things were drastically different upon entering the Monte-Carlo Country Club gates in 2010. He was now the overwhelming favourite, having won the previous five editions — which equalled a 27-match winning streak.

Nadal showed no mercy in 2010. Despite entering the clay-court season on an 11-month title drought, the Mallorcan enjoyed his most dominant Monte-Carlo run, surrendering just 14 games across five matches, including a 6-0, 6-1 championship-match crushing of countryman Fernando Verdasco.

“Every time when I have the chance to win Monte-Carlo, it is a very important tournament for me,” Nadal said. “I was a little bit nervous, I didn’t win a tournament for a while and I saw the chance. My feeling is I was playing really well, so you are a little bit more nervous than usual, but it’s normal.”

2012 – Revenge Routing

After winning seven straight titles in Monte-Carlo, an eighth seemed all but guaranteed in 2023. But a left knee injury, which forced Nadal to withdraw from Miami ahead of his semi-final match, left questions about his health for his most successful Masters 1000 event. Would an injury keep him from lifting the trophy? Or perhaps his rival Novak Djokovic, who had beaten him in their previous seven meetings, including that year’s epic five-hour, 53-minute Australian Open title match?

Ultimately Nadal’s fitness held up in Monte-Carlo, where he and Djokovic clashed in the final. It marked their first encounter since their Melbourne thriller and the Spaniard earned a 6-3, 6-1 win, his most dominant of 29 victories in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with the Serbian.

“It’s very important to break that situation,” said Nadal of his seven-match skid to Djokovic. “[Breaking] that situation [and] winning a Masters 1000, one of my favourites, [makes] everything perfect today.”

2017 – History!

The lefty found another place to etch his name in the record books in 2017, when he became the first man in the Open Era to win the same event 10 times. Nadal was 0-3 in finals that year entering Monte-Carlo, but he delivered another standout week, only dropping a set to Kyle Edmund in the opening round. Nadal downed countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

“To win 10 times at such an important event like Monte-Carlo is something difficult to describe my feelings,” Nadal said. “It really is unbelievable… I think after a lot of years of experience on this Tour, you learn how to enjoy every moment. Today is a day to enjoy.”

2018 – La Undécima (The Eleventh)

The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters was Nadal’s second tournament of 2018, due to a right hip injury he suffered at the Australian Open. Again, Nadal proved there was no obstacle too big to conquer en route to his 11th Monte-Carlo title, which was dubbed as ‘La Undécima’. The 2018 crown also marks his most recent triumph in the Principality.

“I really don’t know how these things can happen because it is a lot of years without making mistakes and without being unlucky in this week,” said Nadal. “Eleven is a lot.”

Nadal did not drop a set en route to the title for a fifth time, defeating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 in the final. The Spaniard was in the midst of an impressive set-winning streak on clay, which climbed to 36 during Monte-Carlo and eventually hit 50 before he fell to Dominic Thiem in the Madrid quarter-finals.

From his breakthrough triumph as a teen in 2005 to his historic 11th crown in 2018, Nadal has enjoyed unparalleled achievements in Monte-Carlo. A 36-time ATP Masters 1000 titlist, Nadal also lifted the trophy in Monte-Carlo in the following years: 2006 (which marked the 100th edition of the tournament), 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2016.

Nadal hinted last season that 2024 could be his final year competing on the ATP Tour. Should that be the case and this month marks his final Monte-Carlo appearance, fans will celebrate the great champion who has made himself at home in the Principality across the past two decades.

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