Nadal battles to beat Monfils for ninth Monte Carlo title


Rafael Nadal was forced to work hard to claim his ninth Monte Carlo Masters title, overcoming Gael Monfils 7-5 5-7 6-0 in an exhilarating final on Sunday.

In a match that frequently swung from one player to the other, it was the grit and determination of Nadal that ensured he came out on top to draw level with world number one Novak Djokovic's record of 28 ATP 1000 triumphs.

Monfils, who had the backing of the Monaco crowd, showed tremendous spirit and produced moments of real quality to force a decisive set, but he could not match the resilience of the Spaniard, who dug in for victory in his 100th final appearance on the ATP Tour.

The first Frenchman in the final since Cedric Pioline in 2000, Monfils showed tremendous power with a pair of forehand winners in game three, but he was unable to capitalise on the break point that came his way.

Nadal quickly punished his opponent, forcing him wide before rushing to the net with a brilliant drop-shot to the opposite side ahead of taking a 3-1 lead.

World number 16 Monfils hit back immediately, staving off break point with another thumping forehand and restoring parity on the same swing down the line following a lengthy rally.

Monfils was unable to maintain that momentum, but battled hard to remain in contention - exemplified by him coming out on top in a 33-shot rally - before gifting Nadal the opening set with a double fault.

The home hope responded in fine fashion, but twice failed to hold his serve after moving ahead, with Nadal pulling back to make it 4-4.

The world number 16 then showed fantastic composure to hold to love, but undid his good work with a long forehand that offered Monfils the chance to serve for the set, and he did just that after the umpire overruled an out call on Nadal's side.

Unperturbed, Nadal managed to take a 3-0 lead in the decider despite sending a simple volley into the net, with Monfils paying for another inopportune double fault.

Nadal pounced on a poorly judged drop-shot to take command of his opponent's next service game, but needed three break points before extending his advantage.

Visibly drained from being forced around the court, Monfils was unable to avoid another break as Nadal saw out the match by winning the final set to love with a sensational shot down the line.