ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal edges Roger Federer to lift fourth crown

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ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal edges Roger Federer to lift fourth crown

After battling for the title in the Principality in 2006 and 2007, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were the main actors in Monte Carlo in 2008 as well, forging the third straight final at the first Masters 1000 event of the season.

Nadal claimed the first crown in Monte Carlo in 2005 at the age of 18, prevailing over Guillermo Coria and starting his reign at the prestigious tournament that has carried him towards 11 trophies there. Rafa returned in 2008 as the three-time champion, producing another stellar ride in Monte Carlo to lift the fourth straight title, beating Roger Federer 7-5, 7-5 in an hour and 43 minutes, earning the 22nd consecutive victory at the French Riviera.

Rafa faced Mario Ancic, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer and Nikolay Davydenko in the previous rounds, dropping 19 games in eight sets and setting the 15th clash with world no. 1 Roger Federer. In their eighth encounter on clay, Nadal grabbed the seventh triumph and the tenth overall against the Swiss, standing strong in the decisive moments to topple the rival who stayed empty-handed for the third straight year in the final of Monte Carlo.

Rafa served at 81%, delivering better performance on the second serve despite getting broken four times from five opportunities offered to Roger. Those four breaks were not enough to keep the Swiss safe and give him at least one set, struggling big time after missing the first serve and allowing Nadal to grab six breaks from seven chances (they saved only two out of 12 break points in total).

Federer had more winners but at the cost of more than 35 unforced errors, unable to tame his shots in the way he wanted and losing ground to Rafa in the more extended rallies to finish runner-up. The Spaniard sprayed a forehand error to suffer a break at love in the first game, drawing an error from Roger in game two to pull it back and level the score at 1-1.

Federer forced a mistake from Nadal in the sixth game to save a break chance and stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, delivering a break at 15 after a well-constructed attack in the next game to forge the advantage and open a 4-3 gap.

Staying calm, Rafa erased the deficit in the next game after a lucky net cord and held at 15 to move ahead, forcing Federer to serve to extend the set. The Swiss held after deuce and had to do the same at 5-6 following another comfortable hold from Rafa in game 11 thanks to a forehand winner.

The defending champion was ready to make the final push, landing a perfect slice winner to secure a break at 15 and clinch the opener 7-5 after 50 minutes. Roger started the second set with a break at 30, holding in game two and securing another break after forcing an error from Nadal to gain a massive 3-0 advantage.

The Swiss fired an ace to wrap up another excellent game, extending the lead and looking good to force a decider against the rival who lost rhythm and momentum. Still, the Spaniard was ready to give his best and try to extend the set, pulling one break back in game six when Federer sprayed a forehand error, moving even closer after a hold at love a few minutes later.

Gaining boost, Roger sent a backhand wide in the eighth game to give serve away for the second straight time, allowing Nadal to complete a comeback and race in front with another comfortable hold. Serving to stay in the encounter, Federer brought the tenth game home with a perfect volley winner, with Nadal hitting one as well in the next one for a hold at love and a 6-5 advantage.

Hoping to reach the tie break, Roger squandered two game points in the 12th game and got broken when his backhand landed beyond the baseline, handing another title to Nadal and still failing to lift the trophy in Monte Carlo despite all the efforts in the last couple of years.