Rafael Nadal stepped up his recovery from injury and illness as he outlasted Frenchman Gael Monfils to claim the ninth Monte Carlo Masters title of his career.
Nadal shared two tightly competitive sets with his opponent before turning on the style in the decider for a 7-5 5-7 6-0 win for his first tour title of the
year in Monte Carlo.
He had earned his place in the final by coming from a set down to beat Andy Murray 2-6 6-4 6-2 on Saturday.
The Spaniard’s win also ensures he matches world No 1 Novak Djokovic
by winning his 28th career Masters title.
Victory capped a stunning week for Nadal, who has struggled for form since taking seven months out because of a knee injury, and withdrew from last month’s Miami Open due to a virus.
An exhilarating first set highlighted by a series of lung-bursting rallies saw both men swap two breaks apiece before Nadal struck again to edge in front.
Nadal twice dragged himself back from a break down in the second before Monfils somehow summoned the energy to break his opponent for a third time to serve out to level the scores.
But hopes of a fitting climax were shattered in the second game of the decider when a clearly ailing Monfils sent down two consecutive double-faults to give Nadal the early break.
And showing few ill effects from his recent periods of inactivity, Nadal stepped up to power his way to victory and send a message to his opponents that he is on the road to recovery.
Andy Murray was philosophical in defeat on Saturday.
“I played a good match,” he told montecarlotennismasters.com. “It wasn’t perfect.
“But apart from the one game at 3-1 in the third, I played good.
“I missed some shots. But you have to obviously take chances against the best players. If I don’t do that, you know, then you lose anyway.”