Rafael Nadal proved his continued impenetrability on clay with a 6-3 6-2 win over Kei Nishikkori in the Monte Carlo final, and a run of play in Monaco that saw him win every match with ease. Nadal buzzed past Aljaz Bedene, Karen Khachanov, Dominic Thiem, and Grigor Dimitrov, never losing more than 4 games in a single set all week. I twas perhaps the most dominant single tournament performance in ATP history, and it came at the Masters 1000 level no less against a solid group of opponents.
While Nadal looked unstoppable, Kei Nishikori looked healthy. His strongest run of play this season saw a win in three sets against Tomas Berdych, straight set victories over Daniil Medvedev and Andreas Seppi, and then narrow three set wins over Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev to reach the final. Nishikori’s form this week suggests he could return to the top 10 by season’s end.
The Bryan Brothers beat Marach/Pavic in the doubles final, wrapping up a solid week for the veteran pairing.
Rafael Nadal won his first Monte Carlo title in four years, his first Masters title since 2014, and his first ATP title since the middle of last year with an exciting 7-5 5-7 6-0 victory over Gael Monfils, that establishes Rafa as one of the top challengers to Novak Djokovic on clay this season, and puts him back into the top 5 ATP conversation. Monfils competed hard for two sets, refusing to go away, but Nadal simply overpowered him on the third set.
Nadal scored wins over Andy Murray, and Stan Wawrinka as well this week, as he appeared to be renewed, and newly energetic upon his return to red clay. His match with Murray was a three setter, while he defeated both Aljaz Bedene, and Dominic Thiem in straight sets early on in the week. Defeating four tough opponents in consecutive fashion is a critical confidence builder for the legendary Spaniard, he still has numerous clay court tournaments ahead of him this year.
Gael Monfils reached his second ATP final of the season, and his first Masters final in six years after his draw was weakened immeasurably by Jiri Vesely’s stunning defeat of world #1 Novak Djokovic. Monfils beat Gilles Muller, Paolo Lorenzi, Vesely, Marcel Granollers, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga without dropping a set, and he is looking like a French Open dark horse, given that RG is his home slam.
Monfils hasn’t lost this spring to a non-top 10 player and is in fantastic form. Roger Federer was upset by Tsonga upon his return to tennis, and Djokovic was of course shocked by Vesely in one of the worst losses of his career. After appearing unstoppable, he had a day of mortal tennis, against an opponent who was clutch in taking advantage of his poor play.
Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert continued their winning ways in doubles, capturing the title over Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, as two of the top doubles teams in the world impressed at the Rolex Masters.
If Nadal returns to an elite level on clay, Murray continues his good clay court form, and Djokovic and Federer sort themselves out, along with possibly Wawrinka, and some of the French contingent, including Monfils, posing a threat, the 2016 clay court season should end up being the best part of the season.
Novak Djokovic has won four consecutive ATP Masters 1000 level tournaments (Paris 2014, Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo 2015) and has a 17 match winning streak in those tournaments, as he claimed his second Monte Carlo title with a 7-5 4-6 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych. The title is the 23rd at the Masters level for Djokovic.
Novak got off to a hot start, and was up a set and 3-2, but the match was interrupted by rain, and Berdych was able to regain his footing and force a third set. Djokovic would win just 1 game after the rain delay in the second set, but he gathered himself in the third, and though he had some headaches closing the match out, he was up 4-0 at one point, and the result was never really in doubt, though he had to drag himself to the finish line. Djokovic improved to 19-2 in his career against Berdych, while Berdych dropped to 0-3 in ATP finals in 2015.
Djokovic didn’t drop a set before the final this week, he beat Albert Ramos, Andreas Haider-Maurer, Marin Cilic, and Rafael Nadal in the process of making the final. He threw up baked goods against Ramos, Haider-Maurer, and Cilic, and while Nadal showed flashes of his clay court genius at times in their semifinal match, he lacked the consistency that Novak has these days, and the depth and pace that Djokovic was pushing Nadal with was enough to get the job done with a couple of breaks. The result will continue the discussion about who is best on clay right now, and Djokovic is winning the argument, though Nadal is clearly number 2, as he vexed another solid clay court contender, David Ferrer, in 3 sets in the quarterfinals.
Berdych, who has been on fire against all but the elite players this year, and has clearly made strides with his game, though they have failed to translate in key moments, beat Sergiy Stakhovsky, Roberto Bautista Agut, Milos Raonic (ret.) and Gael Monfils without dropping a set this week. Monfils had a solid tournament in front of home fans, as he upset Roger Federer, and also beat Alex Dolgopolov and Grigor Dimitrov on the week. The talented but streaky Frenchman will be a player to watch out for the rest of the clay court season.
The Bryan brothers beat Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, who continue their remarkable chemistry in doubles, for the MC doubles title.