Rafael Nadal Comes Back To Beat Andy Murray, Meets Gael Monfils In Monte Carlo Final; Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | April 16th, 2016, 7:19 pm

Turns out this week in Monte Carlo wasn’t about Roger Federer’s comeback, but instead about Rafael Nadal’s! Nadal came into the European clay season with just one single solitary Top 40 win on what had been a dismal season. But after today’s win over Andy Murray in the semifinals, that’s three straight Top 15 victories. Rafa is back! Or is he?

Today, Nadal was simply overwhelmed by the big-hitting, aggressive-minded Murray early in the opening set, but then roared back to take the match going away 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to his 10th Monte Carlo final and collect arguably his biggest win of the season.

Naturally, Nadal was thrilled with the result and his play this week, which – no surprise – comes on his favorite surface.

“It’s a very important week for me, being in a final here again in Monte-Carlo, winning against very tough opponents,” Nadal said after his 17th career win over Murray. “That’s a lot of great confidence, good news for me. Let’s see if tomorrow I can playing at the same level.

“I am trying my best every single day. I want to be today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today, and after tomorrow better than tomorrow. That’s it. That’s my work today, and that’s my motivation.”

So finally all that talk of feeling better, more confidence, etc., is translating on the court. And tomorrow he’s staring at his biggest title in almost two years when he won Madrid by a fluke retirement.

Meanwhile, Murray came out hot but couldn’t sustain it, almost resigning in the end.

“I played a good match today,” said Murray. “It wasn’t perfect. But apart from the one game at 3-1 in the third, I played good. I missed some shots. But you have to obviously take chances against the best players. If I don’t do that, you know, then you lose anyway.

“I do feel like I played a pretty good level match today for the most part. Obviously there was a few dips. But that can happen. Also Rafa is allowed to play well sometimes, too. So you have to give your opponent credit.”

Still a good week for Murray as the clay season begins, but this is Rafa’s moment, and tomorrow the 8-time Monte Carlo champion will be the big favorite against the suddenly-subdued Gael Monfils.

The hyperactive Frenchman has toned down his act all year under coach Mikael Tillstrom and it’s paying off nicely. He hasn’t dropped a set this week and today he thrashed his countryman JW Tsonga 6-1, 6-3 to reach his third Masters final, first on clay.

Life is good for La Monf!

Now to my pick.

Rafael Nadal v. Gael Monfils
Oh if only Novak Djokovic….oh nevermind. Rafa is here, so too is Monfils, and he’s a worthy foe. So that works for me. And right now, at age 29 Monfils is playing maybe the best tennis of his career. Composed, focused, restrained and all business now. Would you believe that’s Monfils? Never.

Nadal’s not where near his peak, but at least he’s playing better as evidenced by wins this week over Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka and now Wawrinka. He’s not back, but there are at least signs of his former self.

And tomorrow he should win. Nadal owns Monfils winning 11 of 13 largely based on the match. Nadal is offensive. Monfils is defensive and stands so far back he gets into trouble.

This year, though, Monfils is stepping up more into the court and taking more balls on the rise. To have any chance, he’ll have to do much more of that against Rafa, otherwise Rafa will just stand on the baseline and run Monfils ragged which is what he’s done throughout his career.

Both the Frenchman’s two wins came on the quick courts in Doha. Monte Carlo is not Doha!

Also, Nadal has won Monte Carlo eight times in nine finals. Monfils has never won a title this big and in his career he’s been horrible in finals winning just five of 23 title matches!

Again, Monfils has changed, but has he changed enough? The jury is still out. Monfils uses that big serve to keep things interesting and that defense to force errors, but Nadal is too tough and too committed to closing out the week in perfect form. This is too big an opportunity to let slip.
The pick: Nadal in three

Tennis Channel will have live coverage starting at 8:30am ET.


COURT RAINIER III start 11:30 am
[3] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) vs [4] J. Murray (GBR) / B. Soares (BRA)

Not Before 2:30 pm
[13] G. Monfils (FRA) vs [5] R. Nadal (ESP)

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64 Comments for Rafael Nadal Comes Back To Beat Andy Murray, Meets Gael Monfils In Monte Carlo Final; Who’s The Pick?

James Says:

This time I agree with Sean – except that I think it will be straight sets for Nadal. I don’t see Monfils doing anything better than Nadal except his serve, which is not as much of a factor here.

As to whether Nadal is back – lets see, maybe he is, but I still have my doubts. If Murray hadn’t messed up on that easy overhead at 30-40, 3-3 on his serve and gotten broken, this could be a different headline. Point is, Nadal had many moments of trouble against Murray, who isn’t exactly a great clay courter.

Also, Nadal may be a bit tired with the longer match today. He’s going to be 30 soon.

Matt Says:

Wow. I can remember just a few weeks ago, maybe a month, certainly several months ago. . . Rafa couldn’t beat a guy in the top 30-40.

I say now, though we’ll wait until Novak survives a draw in the next few weeks, Rafa may be the best in the world! He’s unstoppable!

Unreal. He’s on his way back to the top.

Okiegal Says:

@James…..Going to be 30 soon….I was rather surprised that Andy complained about time between points…..at both of their ages I would think a good little rest between the long rallies would be welcome…….I don’t know how old Andy is…..but he can’t be much younger than Rafa…..

chrisford1 Says:

* Monfils will be in his 3rd career significant final. He lost to Djokovic and Soderling at Paris-Bercy in 2009, 2010. He made the semis in a major once (French Open 2008).

*Rafa could move to a tie with Nole in Masters wins. Highly likely he will, in fact.

*Part of the reason Fed and Andy have been Rafa’s pigeons is they want to play at a faster rythm, and Nadal’s delaying tactics disrupt that. Whereas the “Nightmare”, as Rafa calls Djokovic,is more flexible. Djokovic will speed up with Fed, or a Tsonga…….but is fine playing sloooow with Rafa. Sometimes even slower than Rafa on big points, which irritates Rafa.

*I will be happy if we get a renewal of the great rivalry between the Serb and Spaniard. Could be some more classic matches, the two leapfrogging one another in H2H. Not good for Fed or Andy though – Rafa owns them.

*But I want Nole to win the French. It might even hurt Rafa’s reputation to win a 10th – better he gets the end of year championships, or a 2nd Australia title. Yet another win for the “King of Clay” doesn’t add to is reputation – it makes him seem stunted. A perception he is not a true all-round player – great on clay, but mediocre elsewhere(though 5 Majors, a hardcourt Olympic title.)

chrisford1 Says:

Of course, Rafa’s Masters titles rest mainly on clay, too . 21 of his now 27 titles come from 3 clay courts. Rome (7), Hamburg/Madrid (6), and MC(8). 79% of his Masters titles.

There too, some hardcourt wins benefit his reputation more than yet another clay trophy that tells casual fans he is not a complete player (when he is)

Okiegal Says:

CF1…..How do you know that Novak playing even slower between points than Rafa…..irritates Rafa??
Just wondering if you read that somewhere or are you assuming this?? I can’t believe any slow play would bother Rafa….he loves to play slow and so does Novak, I think they are very compatible on this issue.

anki Says:

Monfils will be lucky to win even four games. Rafa will destroy him.

danica Says:


I don’t think CF1 was talking about the time between the points. I think he meant that Nole can stay with Rafa in the point for a long, loooong time :)

danica Says:

Hello nice people,

I didn’t get the chance to see the MC play, bits and pieces of matches here and there, did not even see a second of Nole’s match. But ever since both Nole and Sasha lost, my heart was rooting for Le Monf. I love Andy and I like Rafa, but I felt that this could finally be a tournament where Le Monf could fulfill his potential. It’s about time. And I hope he wins.

So, no predictions from me, I never give them anyway, this is just me wishing Le Monf to win. In the end, the more deserving guy will.

Okiegal Says:

@Danica…..you are right….got all wrapped up in the time violation scenario and missed the point!!

RF Says:


Correction: I think Nadal’s 8 masters titles have come on hard courts, not 6. Madrid back in 2005 when he won was indoor hard, 1 cincy, 3 rogers cup, 3 indian wells. So that’s 8 out of the 27, but I do agree with your larger point that clay is his stronger surface but hey, Novak’s and Fed’s titles have mostly come on hard courts but that doesn’t change the fact that they are complete players who are fantastic on clay as well.

All in all , all three have their favorite surfaces. I’m sure Novak’s favorite surface is the plexicushion of Melbourne. Fed’s would be the both the grass of Wimbledon and the courts of US open and Cincy.

Margot Says:

Shame about Jamie and Bruno, but the French pair are so adorable, can’t be too sad.
And such lovely scenes after the match with Mahut’s young son on court. Wub. Wub.

James Says:

Fed is 2-13 against Nadal on clay – reason being his one-handed backhand, primarily.

Nadal’s delaying tactics, calling the trainer, bathroom break, or whatever – regardless of what you think about his game – if you are honest, you have to admit this is unsportsmanlike. Its sad that a player of his caliber has to constantly break the rules this way, and its sad that referees are scared to call him out on it. He should not play a game where he cannot follow the rules – or come out publicly and say that the rules should be changed to 30 or 40 seconds between points. Otherwise its just shameful.

He Nadal) is a great player, which makes it even more shameful.

elina Says:

Not intentional but ocd. Fedal are such great players.

But it’s federer who by choice that has demonstrated poor sportsmanship taking a bathroom break to wait for the sun to move, breaking requests, swearing at Murray at AO, cursing the umpire at us open.

It’s too bad he has to do these things because he is one of the best ever.

Daniel Says:

Monfils had BP, didn’t capitilize, fave one in his serve and had several chamces to got to the net with Nadal slicing, eventually one deense from Nadal went deep and Monfils hit a short ball, Nadal breaks, end of match. Back to sleep

Daniel Says:


What do you calling a trainer before MP from your opponent, IW 2012 Fedal?!?! Bias much…

Daniel Says:


But you have 3 out of 9 Masters played on clay to 6 on HC, so if 75-80% of you titles come form 1 surfave while out of the other 6 there is 3 you never won (2 if you count Madrid HC in the pass) it is representative.

jatin Says:

One of the best set I have seen all year. Rafa at his near clay court best vs monfiles at his athletic best. Those wonderful rallies were breathtaking to watch and 1st set isn’t even over yet.
Its so amazing to see King of clay back. Loving this match :)

jatin Says:

Its such a shame that 1st set has to end with a double fault but I wish to see those titanic rallies in this set as well.

Rafa is very near the closing line. Lets see how it goes.

BBB Says:

I like both Nadal and Monfils. Exciting if Monfils wins a Masters 1000 (and is rewarded for his more disciplined approach to the game), and exciting if Rafa is back in the mix.

FedExpress Says:

Dont be delusional rafa tards. he isnt back to his best. even if he wins the title today.

jatin Says:

With such talent how come monfiles never even managed a single masters 1000 ?
He is one of the most atheletic player I have ever seen in tennis with amazing forehand, backhand and even plays precision drop shots and volleys. He has everything to be a GS champion but for some reason he just never managed to maximize his talent. He is looking really sharp in this set.
Its like a cat and mouse game at the moment.

FedExpress Says:

monfils hasnt got stamina and endurance. for a guy who is a pusher and athletic its a joke

FedExpress Says:

hahhaha. nadal has become a joke. on clay.
regardless if he wins today. just pathetic

FedExpress Says:

wta match. no significane at all.

BBB Says:

Monfils has historically gotten distracted by hitting circus shots, as opposed to figuring out how to win matches. When he had Federer on the ropes at the US Open a few years ago, he had no experience closing out matches that big and basically choked.

FedExpress Says:

monfils is a choker. the way he choked vs fed and nishi at miami. marmite

Daniel Says:

Damm, wake up and they are still playing, guess Monfils made a math out of it and has a BP now on 5-5

FedExpress Says:

this set alone shows how much wrong is with nadals level of play these days. everything.

skeezer Says:

“It’s too bad he has to do these things because he is one of the best ever.”
He is there best ever. And your other provoking comments deserve no retort.

Pauly Says:

Monfils can win this match
Nadal isn’t back to his best
He’s just improving
How easy is it to break his serve ?
Too easy

skeezer Says:

looks like your fav has taken the second set, provoking the crowd to be anti nadal.

FedExpress Says:

pushing festival

FedExpress Says:

new low point. losing a set vs monfils on clay.

Daniel Says:

Wow, Monfils wins second set by the same score.
Can he do it?!

Pauly Says:


Monfils will be Monte Carlo champion 2016
Nadal has 8 it’s enough

Van Persie Says:

Allez le Monf!

FedExpress Says:

losing to monfils (who is 5-18 in finals) is just embarassing. and that on clay

gee Says:

The final act doesn’t matter.
Nadal was lucky to stretch the 2nd set because he was scared & helpless at net & gael was too tired to hold serve after breaking him, yet he still whined that the bad call against Gael was corrected!

You have to laugh at Fed’s inability to dominate nadal.
Lol at people calling the 25-30 year olds a bunch of weak players.

Daniel Says:

DF Monfils to set double BP kkk

Daniel Says:

2 double faults and loses the game. Think he will see the second set as job well done. Match over

Daniel Says:

If Monfils doesn’t hold serve now he could lose this set ugly, 6-0 or 6-1. He seems doesn’t have much left in the tank. 2 straight double faults not even forcing shows it, physical stress

Daniel Says:

Nadal defense at it’s best, double break coming

Pauly Says:

Daniel are you Nadal fan ?
Look buddy Nadal isn’t back to his best but he’s better than last year … He’s got to improve more to convince his fans

Daniel Says:

Bagel coming.

Daniel Says:

Me, a Nadal fan?!?! 😭😭😭😭😭

I just said he played a point with great defense as he usual best.

Nadal of old would never be broken this many times on clay.

Pauly Says:


Monfils is tired he’s given up that’s all if people call that choking then so be it
It was good two sets of tennis sadly terrible third if you’re a Monfils fan
Good luck to Nadal
Hopefully this will help him get even better
Must beat Djokovic to convince me … Can’t rely on Vesley again

jatin Says:

Congrts to all Rafa fans. He has won the big one today. Will help him a lot to regain his confidence

nits Says:

Congratulations to all nadal fans for one more master. He has beaten Murray & Wawranika better ranked players then him ATM. So that’s good news. Hi had beaten them and in WTF last year. He has two more people to beat to convince all

Giles Says:

Vamos Rafa!
28 Masters
What a Champ!
Well done Rafa!

Daniel Says:

But that is the point Pauly, how he doesn’t have anything left in the tank after winning all his matches in straights?

As for Nadal was a great toureny, got revenge pver Thiem and Murray who both beat him on clay last time they played and a solid win over Wawa (who I am starting to think won’t do much rest pf his career).

He got a Masters after 2 years with no big titles and tie Djoko’s 28 right after Djoko won his 28.

As I said earlier, the bigger problem about Djoko’s defeat is beacuse he wasn’t in position (be in final today) to compete with Nadal and maybe prevent him for getring further confidence.
This could be a start to Nadal’s La Decima. He is favorite for Barcelona (where he should build on this title). Madrid everybody will be playing but losing there doesn’t mean much for Nadal as conditions are different from RG and altitude. Rome will be the real test. suddenly with MC title, probably Barcelona and Rome? Than you have a fired up Nadal in RG.

He is joy the same but thos tourney everything about his game was better, FH, BH, defense.

So, one never knows.

J-Kath Says:

Repeat Jatin’s message to all Rafa fans. It’s his first big one for a long time. You all must be absolutely thrilled. Congrats again.

Okiegal Says:

What I don’t understand about a talented player like Gael is, why in the world would you not work on getting in shape so your stamina would improve? He just can not last……I can see why he doesn’t win many titles. Talented but very lazy imo….

Rafa, himself caused that match to go to 3 sets. RAFA WORK ON THAT SERVE…..YOU NEED FREE POINTS MORE OFTEN…….please….

Daniel Says:

And Nadal will move to #4 in the race, few points behind Murray an Raonic.

European clay was always the peak of his season and rabking and no better start for him there.

Margot Says:

Terrific two sets. Well played to both but congrats to Rafa of course. OMG is it 10 at MC? Amazing.
Interesting the umpire gave Rafa a time warning in the first set tho., rather than at the end of the match.
Umpires are looking very silly now. They need to have a consistent approach. Can’t be rocket science.

gonzalowski Says:

Hi to everybody! It’s been some time since I last saw one of Rafa’s matches, I’m happy but I’ve seen him a bit more unstable and anxious.
All this obsessive stuff about water bottles’ position, etc. at the end had to mean some weakness, hadn’t it? well, he is a human being too

Van Persie Says:

Congrats to Andy Mira and other Rafa

Okiegal Says:

Another 🏆 for the 👑 of Clay! A job well done by the 💪 man! A round of applause for my guy! 👏👏👏

Ramos Rafa! 🐂 MC titles>>> #9…..amazing!! I am so happy! 🆗

Giles Says:

Rafa dedicated the title to his grandfather Rafel who died only a few months ago.

danica Says:

Did you guys see who the umpire was?

Giles Says:

^^^ Yes, Bernardes. :)

elina Says:

Pauly Says:
Daniel are you Nadal fan ?

I would say that posters here comment most about their favourite player so it’s pretty obvious to all but one. 😭😭😭😭😭

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