MONTE CARLO (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal ended his four-year wait for a ninth Monte Carlo Masters title by defeating Gael Monfils 7-5 5-7 6-0 on Sunday in his 100th career final.
Nadal won eight consecutive titles before losing the 2013final to Novak Djokovic and, after struggling for fitness in recent years, he demonstrated his return to form by overwhelming the home favourite in the third set to win his 28th Masters title.
“Monte Carlo has been one of the most special places in my career,” Nadal told the crowd on receiving the trophy.
”It was a pleasure to play back here again and in a final.
“It’s been a special week for me, winning here in Monte Carlo is so special,” he added. “See you next year.”
Monfils, seeded 13th and looking to become the tournament’s first French winner since Cedric Pioline, started strongly, exchanging consecutive break points with Nadal, before losing the first set 7-5.
Monfils broke Nadal to take an early 2-1 lead in the second,but the Spaniard broke back to level at 4-4 before Monfils wrestled back the initiative to take the set.
Nadal dominated the final set, however, breaking Monfils, who appeared drained by his earlier exertions, three times towin his first Masters title since 2014 and his 48th clay crown.
“Congratulations to Rafa,” Monfils said. “An incredible match today and I‘m very happy that you won again.”
Reporting by Ed Dove, editing by Ed Osmond