Nadal wins 6th straight Monte Carlo Masters title
MONACO (AP) — Rafael Nadal’s title drought is over.
Nadal won his first tournament in nearly a year on Sunday, defeating Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1 in an all-Spanish final at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The second-seeded Nadal overpowered Verdasco with a stunning display of attacking clay-court tennis to earn his sixth straight victory at Monte Carlo, but his first title since the Rome Masters in May 2009.
“Last year I didn’t play well but won; this year the level is completely different,” Nadal said. “I have been playing well since the start of the season.”
He was relieved to win again after losing consecutive Masters semifinals on hard courts at the BNP Paribas Open and the Sony Ericsson Open.
“It was a lot of work. A lot of work,” Nadal said. “For sure, this year is really special for me. One of the most special because I had a little bit of a hard time for the last year.”
Nadal is the only player to win six consecutive titles at the same tournament since tennis turned professional in 1968, and the 23-year-old has tied top-ranked Roger Federer with 16 Masters titles, one behind Andre Agassi’s record.
“I was a little bit nervous — I didn’t win a tournament for a while,” said Nadal, who last year lost to Robin Soderling at the French Open and battled knee problems that sidelined him for more than two months.
He was glad to be back playing his best on his favorite surface.
“Probably one of my best (performances) on clay,” Nadal said. “One of my best levels on clay for sure.”
He sealed the win on his first match point with a forehand pass and fell to the ground, rolling on his back as he savored his victory.
“It was emotional for me today, it was my best week for a long time,” Nadal said. “It’s unbelievable, Monte Carlo is my favorite tournament.”
It was his 32nd straight win at Monte Carlo since his third-round loss to Guillermo Coria in 2003, and the relief at clinching his 37th career title was evident as he sobbed into a towel when he sat down.
Although Federer didn’t play at Monte Carlo, Nadal’s win and early form on clay will make him a favorite to reclaim his French Open title at Roland Garros when the tournament starts late next month.
“If he plays like this, no one can beat him,” the sixth-seeded Verdasco said. “He beat everyone in six years here and I’m just one of them.”
Verdasco had no answers in losing his 10th straight match to Nadal, who covered every part of the court and showed the agility, strength and power that were his hallmarks on clay before his sudden dip last year.
“Sorry for today,” Nadal said to a smiling Verdasco as the two players gave their speeches.
“I hope one day Rafa gets tired of winning here,” Verdasco said.
Nadal’s victory tied him with Britain’s Reggie Doherty, who won the Monte Carlo event six times overall, between 1897-99 and 1902-04.
Just like in 2007 and ’08, Nadal did not drop a set during the tournament.
After the first-set whitewash, Verdasco started the second aggressively and got a huge roar when he finally held his serve.
The cheers turned to jeers when Verdasco hit a lazy shot into the net to lose his serve and trail 4-1, but some spectacular rallying in the sixth game got the crowd back on his side and he forced Nadal to save five break points.
After winning one long rally, Verdasco dropped to his knees and threw his hands up to the sky after winning a point, and even Prince Albert of Monaco rose out of his seat to join in the applause.
“I think he had an unbelievable day and he played really good,” Verdasco said. “He played really good during the whole week, not only today.”
(This version CORRECTS to Nadal losing to Soderling.)