MONTE CARLO: Rafael Nadal needed nearly three hours to defeat Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 yesterday and win a record ninth title at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The Spaniard claimed his first trophy in the Principality since 2012 as he played in his 100th final and tenth in Monte Carlo.
Nadal’s win pulled him level with ATP leader Novak Djokovic on 28 trophies at the Masters 1000 level.
Nadal improved to 12-2 over Monfils as he won a first Masters honour since Madrid in May, 2014.
Nadal and Monfils were both plagued by unforced errors in the tight contest, with the winner striking 36 while Monfils made more than 50.
The match was also riddled with 34 break points, with Nadal converting on eight of 21 while Monfils managed five of 13. “It’s great to win a Masters title again,” Nadal said.
“I had a tough season last years. but I’ve had better preparation this year, even with a tough start to the season.
“I hope this week will help me a lot,” the Spaniard said as he prepared to move onto his home clay of Barcelona next week.
Nadal now owns 68 titles and will carry on in the run-up to the French Open with renewed confidence; Monfils can take small consolation after winning his first-ever set against Nadal on clay.
The opening set took almost an hour and a quarter and set the stage for the second, which at one point featured three consecutive breaks of serve out to 4-4.
Monfils moved into winning position with a break for 6-5 and kept the struggle alive as he won the set for one apiece.
But the third was all Nadal as the Spanish fifth seed swept to a love finish to win his eighth clay match against the Frenchman without a defeat.
Nadal improved his superlative tournament record to 58-4 after winning eight straight titles from 2005-2012. His last finals appearance here was in 2013 when he lost to Novak Djokovic.
Nadal’s specialist record on his favoured clay is all but untouchable, with the 14-time Grand Slam winner standing 48-8 in clay finals.