On this day: Rafael Nadal tops Roger Federer to extend Monte Carlo reign


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On this day: Rafael Nadal tops Roger Federer to extend Monte Carlo reign

On April 27, 2008, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had met in Monte Carlo final for the third straight year, with the Spaniard scoring a 7-5, 7-5 triumph in an hour and 43 minutes to become the first player with four consecutive titles in the Principality.

Just like in 2006 and 2007, Roger was unable to steal the show and beat Rafa on clay for the first time, struggling on the second serve and getting broken six times from seven chances offered to the Spaniard. On the other hand, Rafa had to work hard to move over the top in straight sets despite an excellent performance on the return, suffering four breaks to keep Roger in contention until the closing stages of both sets.

The Swiss had more winners but, as usual in their matches, that came at the cost of too many unforced errors, spraying more than 40 while Nadal stayed on 20 to forge the crucial difference. Nothing could separate them in the shortest points up to four strokes and Rafa had the upper hand in the more extended exchanges, taming his shots more effectively and exploring the rival's backhand in those longer rallies to earn the fourth straight Monte Carlo crown.

After edging Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo in the second round, Roger found his rhythm and played well in the rest of the week, beating Novak Djokovic in the semis (the Serb was forced to retire in the second set) and building confidence before the title encounter that he opened with a break at 15 following a forehand error from Nadal.

The defending champion pulled the break back in the very next game after forcing a backhand error from Roger who saved a break point in the sixth game to level the score at 3-3 with a volley winner at the net. That gave him the momentum and he broke Nadal at 15 in the next game to move 4-3 up, looking determined to finally outplay the great rival on the slowest surface and lift the trophy that had been missing in his collection.

Nonetheless, Rafa broke back at 15 in game eight after a lucky net cord winner, making a good hold to move 5-4 up and mount the pressure on Federer who had no room for errors. The Swiss held after deuce to bring the result back to 5-5 although it wasn't to be for him, with Nadal holding at love with a forehand winner and breaking Roger at 15 thanks to a beautiful backhand crosscourt winner that sent him 7-5 in front after 50 minutes.

Just like in the opener, Federer kicked off the second set with a break of serve, cementing the lead with a nice hold and looking better and better on the court with a break at love in game three that provided him a massive advantage.

An ace at 3-0 pushed Roger further in front and the deciding set appeared to be a done deal for many but not for Nadal who was ready to fight for every point on the comeback trail. He pulled one break back at 1-4 when Roger hit a forehand long and held at love to further reduce the deficit, breaking at love a few minutes later to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard.

After five straight games he lost, Roger served to stay in the tournament at 4-5 and made a comfortable hold with a volley winner that extended the clash for at least two more games, sending the pressure back to the other side of the net.

Nadal was not to be denied, though, hitting a volley winner that sent him 6-5 ahead and saving two game points in game twelve to secure a break after a loose backhand from Roger, celebrating a great comeback and the title, the tenth at Masters 1000 series at the age of 21!