Back in 2018, world no. 1 and the ten-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal advanced to his 12th final in the Principality in the last 14 years after a 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Grigor Dimitrov in an hour and 33 minutes. It was the 67th win for Nadal in Monte Carlo in 71 matches, extending the number of consecutive sets won on clay to 34 for another demonstration of his unmatched dominance on the slowest surface.
Dimitrov had fought well in the opening set that lasted for more than an hour before Nadal broke his resistance in set number two, sailing through the final and beating Grigor for the 11th time in 12 encounters they had played so far.
We didn't see too many winners on either side but it was a great battle in the first 60 minutes before Nadal raised his level to leave the Bulgarian far behind. Rafa served well, dropping 18 points in nine service games and playing only one loose game when he got broken in the opening set.
Grigor created two break chances and one break of serve was far from enough to keep him in touch longer, especially after the crumble that we saw from him in set number two. The Bulgarian struggled to find the pace with his second serve, giving away more than 50% of the points in his games to offer eight break chances to Rafa and get broken four times.
Nadal held after deuce in the opening game and grabbed a break in the second after a forehand winner. Nonetheless, they needed 15 minutes to complete the opening two games and Grigor was there to fight, firing an ace in game four to get his name on the scoreboard.
He managed to overcome the deficit and break back in the next game after one of the worst service game from Nadal that week, spraying a backhand error to bring Grigor back on the positive side of the scoreboard. The Bulgarian fended off a break point in game six with another solid attack and one more at 3-4, this one after a forehand error from Nadal who couldn't find the way to impose his shots and move Dimitrov from the comfort zone.
Rafa served well after suffering that break, keeping the pressure on his rival who served to stay in the set at 4-5. Grigor couldn't deal with it and Nadal had two set points after two double faults and a forehand mistake from his rival.
The Spaniard sealed the deal with a forehand down the line winner after a grueling 61 minutes and everything was much more comfortable for him in the rest of the clash, gathering momentum and sailing towards the finish line.
Just like in the opener, the defending champion held after deuce at the beginning of the second set, taking a big step towards the finish line when he broke Grigor at love in game two. A service winner sent Nadal 3-0 up and Dimitrov simply faded from the court, netting a forehand in game four to lose serve at love for the second time in a row and find himself in the hopeless situation, with all momentum being gathered at the other side of the net.
Rafa forced an error from Grigor in the seventh game to wrap up another comfortable hold and the triumph, looking good to lift his 11th Monte Carlo trophy against Kei Nishikori.