Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Final Preview Rafael Nadal Vesus Gael Monfils
The Monte Carlo Rolex Masters 2016 final will be contested by eight time champion Rafael Nadal (5) and Frenchman Gael Monfils (13). The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.
Both Nadal and Monfils come in to the final after traveling down very different roads this week.
Nadal has had mini struggles all the way, and then a monumental one in his semi-final with Murray. Monfils, meanwhile, has cruised through the draw without dropping a single set.
In Nadal’s first match he failed to serve out both sets versus Aljaz Bedene the first time of asking. In his last sixteen match versus Dominic Thiem, he was vulnerable on his serve again as he faced 17 break points. In his last eight match against Stan Wawrinka, he again struggled when it got close to closing out the match. In his last match, Nadal fell behind a set and looked in danger of being overwhelmed by Andy Murray in straights.
In each match, though, Nadal managed to survive the problems posed to him, something he has failed to do at times over the last season and a half since coming back from injury.
Nadal could not have asked for a better struggle to set him up for the rest of the clay season than the one Murray gave him.
If any match was going to remind him of his career achievements, it was this one, a come back three set win versus another member of the Big Four, one who had beaten him the last time they had met on clay.
The Scot took the first 6-2 with some fine clay play, the kind that earned him his best ever run on the surface last season. Nadal, though, wrestled control of the match at the end of the second set, his level rising and his forehand growing in depth, confidence and precision. Once the Spaniard took the set, he then dominated the third as he gave the kind of performance we were used to seeing in his heyday, like in 2011 when he defeated Murray in a similarly brutal three set Monte Carlo semi.
Nadal’s win over Murray this year brought him into his 10th Monte Carlo final, and his 100th career one, becoming the sixth man to achieve that feat.
In that final he will face Monfils who breezed past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 6-3 and enters his third ATP 1000 final, and his 24th overall.
That win over Tsonga was Monfils’ fourth straight sets win in a row after defeats of Gilles Muller, Paolo Lorenzi, Jiri Vesely, and Marcel Granollers.
Facing an in form Nadal, perhaps arguably his best form since 2014, in a final is tough enough, but it’s even tougher when you have a finals record like Monfils- 5-18- and the head to head he has with the Spaniard- 2-11. The Frenchman has also only won 17 games and never won more than 3 games in a set in his four clay court matches versus the Spaniard.
So, on paper, this final looks like a certain win for Nadal.
This week has been a strange one, though, and while Nadal may look back to form, he did have some advantages in his match up with Murray in a match where his psychological edge over the Scot, who has struggled recently, paid dividends.
You could say he has an edge over Monfils, too, but there are two important factors in this final which may play a part in the outcome.
One is that Monfils has nothing to lose- Nadal is the runaway favorite here, and Monfils’ final record is such that he is always the underdog. Also, crowds love a home player and an underdog which means Monfils is going to receive plenty of support, and if he can the crowd going with his athletic skills and shot-making, he could really get some momentum going.
This match could be the perfect chance for Monfils, who has under-delivered throughout his career, to give the kind of performance he is capable of, one in which he combines his great defense, depth of shot, ability to track down balls, and fine, inspired shot-making skills, to realize his potential, which should have by now realized itself in the form of at least one ATP 1000 trophy.
Second, Nadal has not won an ATP 1000 since Madrid 2014, and while his gutsy three set win over Murray must give him confidence, we do not know how he will respond if Monfils feels inspired by the occasion before a home crowd and takes the match to him. Will the pressure be too much? Will Nadal, as strange as it sounds, with another ATP 1000 title a match away after two years in the wilderness, by his standards anyway, want this win too much?
Prediction: Nadal should win this, and if previous matches with Monfils on clay are anything to go by, he should win it without a fuss. But Monfils is having a good season, plays well on clay- his best ever slam finish is the Roland Garros semis- and he has the home crowd support so this might not be as straightforward as it seems.
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