Rafael Nadal Produces More Monte Carlo Magic
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Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
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.