Rafael Nadal survived a brutal tournament late goings, defeating former French Open champ Stan Wawrinka in the quarters, No. 2 seed Andy Murray from a set down in the semis, and No. 5 seed Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 to win a ninth Monte Carlo title on Sunday.
Nadal seemed in control until 5-5 in the second set when he dropped serve, allowing Monfils to claim the second set, but the Spaniard was a beast in the third, not allowing the fading Frenchman a game.
It was Nadal’s first Masters-level title in almost two years and some much-needed confidence approaching the French Open.
“It has been a very important week for me,” said Nadal after his first Masters title since 2014 Madrid and his biggest title since the 2014 French Open. “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,” he added. “To win again here after three years is something so special for me. So very happy for that. I am enjoying emotionally.”
It was his first Monte Carlo crown since 2012, and he will next attempt to reclaim his homecountry Barcelona title that for the last two years has gone to Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
“I had a tough season last year, but I’ve had better preparation this year — even with a tough start to the season,” Nadal said. “It’s great to win a Masters title again. I hope this week will help me a lot.”
Nadal had last won an ATP title at Hamburg in July 2015. It was the Spaniard’s 68th career title in 100 career finals, and 48th on clay, just one behind record holder Guillermo Vilas’s mark.
Monfils fell to 0-3 in Masters-level finals, 0-2 in finals in 2016, and 5-19 in career finals.
“You just have to accept he’s a bit better,” Monfils said after running out of gas in the third set. “He increased his intensity and changed the way he was playing…I couldn’t contain him when he started to speed up. I simply couldn’t find an answer.”
Nadal’s win continues to bolster the Big 4′s dominance. All told, now 51 of the last 55 Masters titles have gone to either Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray and at least one has reached the finals in the last 30. On clay, it’s now 33 of the last 35 Masters going to the fab foursome.
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