Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Final Rafa Nadal Defeats Gael Monfils Five Points

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Photo courtesy of matiastania.gr

Rafa Nadal lifted his ninth Monte Carlo Rolex Masters trophy beating Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 in a 2 hour 45 minute contest. The Tennis Review gives you five points on a thrilling final.

The title is Nadal’s first ATP 1000 since Madrid ’14.

Since that victory over Kei Nishikori in the Madrid ’14 final, Nadal had reached just two other ATP 1000 finals, both on clay, in Rome (2014) and Madrid (2015) losing to Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray respectively.

Nadal now ties Novak Djokovic with 28 ATP 1000 titles

That did not look likely back in Miami when Djokovic took the record for most ATP 1000 titles, climbing one above Nadal and his jointly held record of 27.

That same week, while Djokovic continued his dominance of the ATP tour, Nadal had problems with the heat and had to withdraw from his third round match with Damir Dzumhur.

In the space of a few weeks, however, Nadal has turned his season round from one in which he struggled with confidence and fitness to one in which he excelled in both as he took one of the tour’s oldest and most prestigious titles with wins over Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, all well-regarded, even highly rated clay court players, and then emerged the winner in a hotly contested final.

Nadal now leads Monfils 12-2 in their head to head.

Considering their head to head, few expected the Nadal-Monfils Monte Carlo match to be such a closely contested one.

Especially considering their clay court history. Before the match, Nadal led Monfils 4-0 on clay and had never dropped more than 3 games to him in a set, losing 17 games in total.

In the 2016 Monte Carlo final alone Nadal lost 13 games to the Frenchman, and five of those were on his own serve.

The match had 13 breaks of serve

Nadal got 8 of them, Monfils 5. Monfils saved a total of 13 break points, while Nadal saved 8.

Breaks of serve on clay are more common than on hard, and both men returned from quite far back which meant they could neutralize the serve with their ground-strokes. If one of them managed to get a good strike on the return, they were able to effectively take control of the point, diffuse the weapon that the serve can be and make this match one decided from on and inside the baseline. Both men also approached the majority of the break points with aggressive tennis which led to the high number of points both converted.

In the first set, Nadal broke first for 3-1 with some sublime defense and then transitioned into offense, earning a short ball and hitting it down the line with authority to force an error from Monfils.

Monfils broke back  immediately as he remained solid in rallies, forcing an error from Nadal on break point, and then held serve for 3-3.

At 4-3, Nadal broke again as Monfils fired a forehand long, but the Spaniard could not serve the set out and Monfils leveled the set at 5-5.

Nadal held for 6-5 and then broke Monfils to take the first set 7-5.

In the second set, Monfils was not going to go away, breaking for 2-1 and holding for a 3-1 lead. Nadal fought back to level the set at 3-3,  but Monfils never gave up, breaking again for 4-3.

Nadal breaking straight back did not dispirit the Frenchman, who was 5-18 in finals, as he held serve to stay in the match at 4-5 and then broke Nadal for 6-5.

The Frenchman then served out the set and leveled the match at a set apiece.

That, however, was as far as the Frenchman’s challenge to the eight time Monte Carlo champion was going to go. Nadal broke at the start of the decider, held serve, broke again, and as each point went on, the Spaniard grew in confidence and authority as he took the deciding set 6-0, and with it his ninth Monte Carlo Rolex Masters title.

Nadal said “I had to decide the match with my forehand”.

The match was full of long rallies as both men, two of the game’s greatest defenders, tracked down every ball that came their way and sent it back until they got an opening to take charge of the point. In the end, it was Nadal’s forehand, once the shot that defined his career, particularly down the line, which made the difference.

That shot has looked less than potent at times the last season and a half, especially in tight matches, but in the Monte Carlo final, at the scene of a third of his ATP 1000 trophy finals, it once again burst into life.

After the match, Nadal said ” I had to decide the match with my forehand”. He certainly did, and on no more a decisive point than match point.

Check out Nadal’s winning forehand on match point below.

Monfils hit some pretty impressive forehands, too. None more so than the one in the video below.

This was Nadal’s ninth Monte Carlo crown, his 68th title overall, and his 47th on clay.

Next up for Nadal is Barcelona, his home event, and one where he now has a chance to really stamp his mark on the 2016 clay court season.

With question marks over his chief rivals form, the nine times French Open champion has answered the questions about his with a resounding response and while we won’t know if he is truly back until he has a win over Djokovic or has regained his Roland Garros title, we do know he is back to winning European clay court titles and proving the mentally tougher in final sets, two things which will set him up nicely, and rightfully worry his rivals, as he challenges for a record breaking tenth Roland Garros title in the coming weeks.

Watch highlights of Nadal’s win over Monfils in the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters final below.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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