Rafael Nadal: Mastering the Monte Carlo Masters
The Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal began his clay season of 2018 with a bang by clinching the Monte Carlo Masters, beating the Japanese Kei Nishikori in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 in a one-hour and 34-minute final.
It was a record-extending La Undécima (eleventh) victory for Rafa at the Monte Carlo Masters. Last year at the same venue, he had become the first player in the history of Tennis to win 10 titles at the same tournament. He later repeated the La Décima feat at Barcelona Open and his favourite Grand Slam, French Open.
One-sided affair at Monte Carlo
Having finished the year 2017 at top of ATP World Tour Rankings, it was Rafa’s second tournament of 2018. In January, he had sustained a hip injury during his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic and was out of action for a couple of months.
Hence the Spaniard came to Monte Carlo with a must-win situation. Nothing lesser than the title itself would have ensured his continued stint at World No. 1 ranking.
After having an easy go against unseeded Aljaz Bedene and Karen Khachanov in the rounds of 32 and 16 respectively, Rafa had his first challenge in the quarter-finals match against 5th seeded Austria’s Dominic Thiem. The much-anticipated match turned one-sided as the top seeded dominating the first 10 games before closing it 6-0, 6-2.
In the semi-finals, the Mallorcan met 4th seed Grigor Dimitrov. Though th Bulgarian showed some resistance in the first set, as the game progressed he found Rafa too hot to handle as the latter wrapped up the game 6-4, 6-1.
Nishikori, coming after a four-month injury gap could break Rafa early in the first set of the final match to take a 2-1 lead. But the Japanese couldn’t hold the momentum as the Spaniard got into business to win five out of the next six games to clinch the first set 6-3. From then, it was again a one-sided affair with the Master of clay wrapping the second set 6-2 to claim his eleventh title victory at Monte Carlo.
Extending streak of Records
The victory at Monte Carlo was Nadal's 31st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown. It helped breaking the tie with Novak Djokovic (30 Masters Titles) as well. Rafa is now the player with the most number of ATP Masters Crowns, while Swiss Master Roger Federer is third on the list with 27 ATP 1000 titles.
The victory on Sunday also recorded a streak of a career-best 36 consecutive sets on clay for the clay court master, who dominates the surface like no one else. His record of most number of titles on his favourite surface now extends to 54.
With the stage being perfectly set in Monte Carlo, it is just a matter of staying fit and continuation of the all-conquering form. The tennis fans can just expect the repeat of a sublime 2017 performance in 2018 as well from the King of clay.