Monte Carlo Flashback: Rafael Nadal claims first notable title in two years

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Monte Carlo Flashback: Rafael Nadal claims first notable title in two years

Rafael Nadal claimed the ninth Roland Garros crown in 2014. The Spaniard struggled with injuries, and he could not challenge the rivals from the top in the next two years, despite staying in the top-10. Nadal had to wait for almost two years to lift another notable title, winning the trophy in Monte Carlo 2016 over Gael Monfils.

It was Rafa's ninth crown in the Principality, and he matched Novak Djokovic's 28 Masters 1000 trophies. Nadal needed two hours and 46 minutes to dismiss Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, leaving the second set behind him and storming over the opponent in the decider.

Thus, the Spaniard claimed the 68th ATP title and secured at least one for the 13th consecutive season. Gael gave his everything to challenge the king of clay in the opening two sets. Still, he faded from the court in the decider and missed a chance to claim the first Masters 1000 trophy.

The crowd on the Court Rainier III had the opportunity to see everything that one match on clay has to offer. There were extended baseline rallies, sharp and precise winners, mindblowing defense and transition to attacking mode on both sides.

In short, it was one of the best matches of 2016 and a memorable final to watch! For Gael, it was the tournament of a career up to that point, even though he claimed five other titles. The Frenchman played great tennis in the opening five encounters en route to the final and challenged Rafa for two sets.

There were 13 breaks of serve and five in the first and second sets each. Monfils knew how to challenge Nadal, staying in rallies long enough to create the opportunity for the attack and changing the pace of his shots to keep Rafa outside the comfort zone.

Monfils earned a break chance in game three, and Nadal saved it with a well-constructed attack. Rafa stole the rival's serve in the next one for an early advantage. The Spaniard could not cement it and got broken in game five to keep the opponent on the positive side.

Gael repelled two break opportunities in the next game before Rafa broke him at 4-3 to forge another advantage.

Rafael Nadal defeated Gael Monfils in the 2016 Monte Carlo final.

Monfils fought back to prolong an already extended first set and converted the third break chance in that ninth game.

Gael erased three set points on his serve and leveled the score at 5-5 for more drama. Staying focused, Nadal grabbed another break at 6-5 to finally seal the set after 73 minutes and move closer to the title. Rafa started strong in the second set, and it looked like Gael would no longer be able to follow that pace.

Nonetheless, an inspired Frenchman proved all wrong, as he continued to push Nadal to the limits and fight for every point. Gael was the first to break, stealing Rafa's serve in game three and opening a 3-1 gap after saving three break chances in the next one.

Rafa was in danger of falling two breaks down and repelled a break opportunity in game five to remain within one break deficit. The Spaniard pulled the break back in game six to level the score at 3-3. Players exchanged another pair of breaks in games seven and eight to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats.

This time, Monfils kept his composure better, broke Nadal in game 11 and wrapped up another marathon set on his serve to send the clash into a decider! After seeing everything that tennis can produce in the first two sets, Gael had nothing left in the tank to stay competitive in the final one.

The Spaniard lost only four points on serve and broke Monfils three times for a commanding 6-0, ending the match in a completely different way in comparison to the first two sets. The Frenchman won only five points behind the initial shot, unable to hold in three attempts.

He allowed Nadal to finish the encounter with a fantastic forehand down the line winner at 5-0 and end his almost two-year drought without a big title.