Rafael Nadal captured an incredible 10th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters crown on Sunday in beating fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3 in the 76-minute final. Nadal’s 29th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, one shy of record-holder Novak Djokovic (30), marks the first time in the Open Era (since April 1968) that any man has won a singles tournament on 10 occasions.
The victory also sees Nadal clinch his 50th clay-court crown (50-8), breaking the record he shared with Guillermo Vilas since 24 April 2016, when Nadal lifted his ninth trophy at the Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell.
“It really is unbelievable,” said Nadal. “To win 10 times at such an important event like Monte-Carlo is something difficult to describe my feelings. Every year has been a different feeling. At the same time it is always a unique moment, every time, I have this trophy with me. [Of course] there is a little bit of luck, lot of things coming together to win this 10th title in an event like Monte-Carlo.
“I feel lucky to keep playing tennis [and] being healthy all those years, in order to compete in one of the most beautiful events of the year, without a doubt. I am very happy to win another one. For me, it is a very important day in my career.”
His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco presented Nadal with the trophy after he improved to a 63-4 match record at the Monte-Carlo County Club, receiving an incredible ovation for his moment of tennis history from the capacity crowd. World No. 7 Nadal earned 1,000 Emirates ATP Rankings points and will now travel to Barcelona, where he will look to further add to his legacy as the undisputed ‘King of Clay’, with €820,035 in prize money.
Nadal has now won an ATP World Tour title for the 14th year in a row (since 2004) and has a 70-35 mark in title matches during his illustrious career.
Fourth seed Nadal, who had practised first-strike tennis on Court Rainier III hours before the afternoon final, put Ramos-Vinolas under immediate pressure in his first service game, but he could not convert three break point opportunities. In targeting Ramos-Vinolas’ backhand with his heavy topspin forehand, Nadal created space and in the fourth game secured a 3-1 advantage with a break to love. A second service break followed at 1-4, 15/40, when Ramos-Vinolas struck a forehand into the net. Nadal, who had been quick to move up the court for the short ball, clinched the 30-minute set with an ace.
Ramos-Vinolas, who attempted not to be pushed back farther behind the baseline, settled down in the early stages of the second set, but at 2-2 the relentless depth and pace of Nadal saw the World No. 24 get broken for a third time (to 30) with a mis-timed backhand that sailed long.
Nadal experienced a brief wobble when leading 4-3, dropping to 0/30, but clever placement ensured short responses for routine groundstroke winners. At 3-5, Ramos-Vinolas buckled under tremendous pressure. Having saved two championship points, courtesy of Nadal errors, Ramos-Vinolas hit a double fault on Nadal’s third championship point.
“I think that he was a little bit better in everything,” admitted Ramos-Vinolas. “When he’s a little bit better in everything, the difference is what we saw in the match. I also think I didn’t serve well, to be honest. I think he served really well today. Last time I played against him, I felt that on the return I had the opportunity to apply some pressure.
“It’s not easy to play a final against Rafa Nadal, to play with no sun today. He has a little bit more power than me in his game. Also, I think the cloud today didn’t help me. Obviously, I think that even if it has been sunny, I would have probably lost as well, but maybe it would have been a little bit different. To play a final against him today, it was not easy.”
It was the pair’s third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting (Nadal leads 3-0), following on from victories in 2013 and 2014 at Barcelona. Nadal extended his perfect 14-0 record of never having lost to a fellow Spaniard in an ATP World Tour final.
It was the first all left-handed Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final since 2010, when Nadal swept past his compatriot Fernando Verdasco, and the fourth all-Spanish final in the tournament’s history – 2002 Juan Carlos Ferrero d. Carlos Moya, 2010 Nadal d. Verdasco and 2011 Nadal d. David Ferrer. Three-time former finalist and former World No. 1 Boris Becker watched Nadal’s historic win unfold.
Ramos-Vinolas had put together the best week of his career in posting back-to-back victory over World No. 1 Andy Murray, No. 8-ranked Marin Cilic and No. 17-ranked Lucas Pouille. He had been attempting to become the first player outside of the Top 20 in the Emirates ATP Rankings to win the Monte-Carlo title since No. 31 Alberto Mancini in 1989 (d. Becker).
On Monday, the 29-year-old Spaniard will crack the Top 20 for the first time at No. 19.