11:30 AM GMT April 22, 2018
Rafael Nadal continued to build upon his extraordinary legacy at Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on Sunday when he captured his 11th trophy, which represented a record 31st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.
The Spanish superstar, who boasts a 396-35 record on clay courts (.919) according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, beat Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-2 in a one-hour and 34-minute final. It was their third clash in a red dirt title match — also 2014 Mutua Madrid Open and 2016 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
Watch: Nadal's Road To La Undécima
"My true feeling is these kind of things are not going to happen forever, so I just try to enjoy them and to play with the full passion and with the full energy and concentration, full love for the sport until I can," said Nadal. "I know the day to say goodbye is closer than 10 years ago. It is something that I am not worried about, but it is a real thing. So I am just enjoying every day and trying to play with the best attitude possible, to keep being happy playing tennis. That's all.
"Of course it is a special day for me. Winning again this title here in Monte-Carlo means a lot, especially because it is the first tournament in the year that I finished. To have the victory in a Masters 1000, especially in Monte-Carlo, that for me is one of the most important ones in terms of personal feeling and in terms of history of our sport. I am very excited and very happy for everything."
The victory improves Nadal match record to 11-1 on the 2018 season and means that the 31-year-old will begin his 171st week at No. 1 in ATP Rankings on Monday, breaking a tie with American John McEnroe (170 weeks). Nadal, with 76 career titles (54 on clay), is now also one trophy shy of McEnroe’s singles haul (77). He will now travel to Barcelona, where he is a 10-time titlist, having won a career-best 36 consecutive sets on clay.
His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, and his wife, Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, presented Nadal with the Monte-Carlo trophy in front of a capacity crowd on Court Rainier III. Nadal received €935,385 in prize money and earned 1,000 ATP Rankings points.
"It is very special," Nadal added. "But 11 titles here, it's unbelievable, so it's something difficult to imagine. I always say the same: If I did it, somebody else can do it. But it is very difficult. I really don't know how these things can happen because it is lot of years without making mistakes and without being unlucky in this week. I have been unlucky other weeks, but not this week.
"The history with this tournament is unique. To put another trophy in my museum, in my academy, is going to be something great. Eleven is a lot, especially here in Monte-Carlo."
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Title Leaders
|Player||Masters 1000 Titles||Monte-Carlo Titles|
|(1) Rafael Nadal||31||11|
|(2) Novak Djokovic||30
|(3) Roger Federer||27||0|
|(4) Andre Agassi||17||0|
|(5) Andy Murray||14||0|
Nishikori saved one break point in a 16-point second game of the pair’s 12th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, prior to clinching Nadal’s serve with a delicate backhand winner down the line for 2-1. But Nishikori looked deflated one game later when he double-faulted to gift Nadal a way back into the set. Nadal didn’t need another invitation as he won four of the next five games finishing the 56-minute opener with a trademark forehand approach down the line.
Once Nadal cleaned the right tramline with a crosscourt forehand winner to break Nishikori in the third game, the second set was one-way traffic. From 0-1, Nadal won five straight games, including a service break at 1-3 courtesy of Nadal forehand error.
Nadal lost just 21 games in his five matches — against Aljaz Bedene, Karen Khachanov, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and Nishikori — this week at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, where he has a 68-4 record with 12 final appearances. It is the fifth time he has won the Monte-Carlo title without dropping a set (also 2008-10 and 2012).
This week, Nadal was competing in just his second tournament of the season, having sustained a hip injury during his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic in January.
Most Titles At A Single Tournament
|Rafael Nadal||Roland Garros||10|
The 28-year-old Nishikori was contesting the fourth Masters 1000 championship match of his career (0-4), after runner-up finishes to Nadal at 2014 Madrid and to Djokovic at 2016 Miami Open presented by Itau and Rogers Cup in Toronto. The Japanese, who may meet Nadal in next week’s Barcelona quarter-finals, received €458,640 in prize money and earned 600 ATP Rankings points.
"I knew it's going to be tough to maintain my level because he gives me all the balls back," said Nishikori. "It's not easy to dominate the point with Rafa all the time. I knew it's going to be tough even though I was up a break.
"I was kind of out of gas, especially in the second set. How he plays... He makes every shot. He makes it tough. I think he was also playing great tennis. It was not easy to maintain my level until the end today."
Nadal will next head to Barcelona in search of yet another 11-title haul at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. He finds himself in the same quarter of the draw as Nishikori and longtime rival Novak Djokovic, with a potential rematch against the Japanese awaiting in the third round. Draw Preview
"Next week is another week that I have a tough draw in Barcelona," Nadal continued. "Today is a day to enjoy this because winning a tournament like this one not happening every day. But tomorrow I need to start being focused on the next week. Is not the moment to stop and to disconnect your mind. Is the moment to stay focused and to keep holding that momentum that is good one after winning seven matches in a row on clay now, this year. That's a positive thing. The way that I won the matches are very positive. So is the moment to keep going, and that's my goal."
Did You Know?
Rafael Nadal will rise to No. 4 in the latest ATP Race to London standings on Monday after winning his 11th Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters title. The World No. 1 has won 11 of his 12 matches on tour in 2018.