Rafael Nadal considers himself one “lucky guy” after picking up his seventh successive Monte Carlo Masters title after beating fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-4 7-5 today.
The 24-year-old said it would have been “impossible to imagine” just a few years back that he could win seven titles in the tiny principality, but his straight sets victory over Ferrer in two hours and 16 minutes completed that monumental haul.
The world No.1 has good reason to be “enjoying everything” right now, having only lost one match in Monte Carlo – and that was back in 2003 when, as a 16-year-old, he made his debut at the Masters 1000 tournament.
Incredibly, Nadal’s record at the event now reads 39-1 after he recorded his 37th straight victory there for his first title of the season. He had lost in the Qatar semifinals, while Ferrer defeated him in the Australian Open quarters, before he recorded final losses to the on-fire Novak Djokovic in Miami and Indian Wells.
But Nadal was never really in trouble against the world No.6 on a beautiful day at the Monte Carlo Country Club, although the first set did take 74 minutes to complete.
The pair shared early breaks, with Ferrer playing a feeble backhand into the net to give up the first, before recovering to produce a perfect drop shot that caught Nadal flat-footed.
However, Nadal broke Ferrer’s serve again with a tremendous cross-court backhand on the clay, before holding his own serve to take the first set.
The Mallorcan kept up the pressure on his opponent early in the second set and broke once more in game three after playing an excellent forehand.
The match looked all over then, but Ferrer refused to buckle and showed great spirit to break back as Nadal played a backhand wide.
Nadal looked stunned and began making mistakes, but nerves seemed to get the better of Ferrer and he in turn produced a series of unforced errors to gift The King of Clay the 11th game for a 6-5 lead. Nadal, as expected, then served out the match for the title.
Nadal is building up to the French Open and believes today’s victory was “very important” as he eyes up a sixth title at Roland Garros.
However, he removes pressure from himself by refusing to “think about defending points” from previous seasons, considering that the real goal is to “just keep trying to improve”.
Today’s victory supplied Nadal with the 44th trophy of his career, with a record 19 of those titles coming in Masters 1000 tournaments. More interesting is the fact he has collected 30 clay-court titles to tie for third spot in the Open era with countryman Manuel Orantes and Swedish legend Bjorn Borg.
Guillermo Vilas, of Argentina, is No.1 on 45 clay-court titles, while Austrian Thomas Muster follows in second on 40.
Nadal, meanwhile, will be gearing up for another of his favorite tournaments, the Barcelona Open, which begins tomorrow. The superstar has won five out of the last six titles in Catalonia.