After meeting in the duel for the title in 2006 and 2007, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were again the players to beat in Monte Carlo in 2008. Nadal, three-time champion, defeated his great rival 7-5 and 7-5 in a hour and 43 minutes to prolong his reign in the Principality and achieve the 22nd consecutive victory in the first Masters 1000 on clay of the season.
Rafa dispatched Mario Ancic, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer and Nikolay Davydenko to reach the title clash. Despite the toughness of his rival, the great Spaniard gave up 19 games in eight sets and made his 15th match against the world number 1, Federer.
Rafa knocked Roger down for the seventh time in their eighth match on clay, coming on strong in the decisive moments to leave the Swiss empty-handed. Despite receiving four breaks from Roger's five chances, Rafa served at 81% and offered better performance on second serve.
Those four breaks were not enough to keep the Swiss safe and give him at least a set. Roger struggled after losing the first serve and allowed Rafa to get six breaks from seven chances as he only saved two of 12 break points.
Federer had more winners but at the cost of more than 35 unforced errors. He couldn't tame his shots the way he wanted and lost ground in the longer rallies to finish as runner-up. The Spaniard made a forehand error and suffered a break in the first game.
He recovered instantly and matched Roger's mistake in the second game to recover the break and level the score at 1-1.
King Roger will play the 2022 Laver Cup
Roger Federer's future in the sport has been a topic of conversation for a long time now as the Swiss superstar continues to be sidelined with injuries.
"Roger is an optimist, has positive energy, young children. He certainly has two goals: first, get his knee fixed so that he can later have a normal life with his children. That's a big motivator," Clarey said. "And secondly… well, people have been asking Roger since 2009 when he won the French Open when he was going to retire.
He's immune to it. His role models are people like Laver, Rosewall or Agassi. I don't think he likes coming back just for the Laver Cup. Maybe it will, but I don't think that's what he wants," he said. "At the end of the day, he's someone who enjoys playing tennis, who enjoys feeling the ball on the racquet.
And he loves competition." Clarey also revealed the Swiss doesn't get disturbed when he's in his country as the fans residing there are appreciative of his privacy. "But of course he needs his private time to regain his strength.
In Switzerland, people accept that too. If he lived in Argentina or Italy, it would be more difficult. His manager Tony Godsick once told me: When Roger walks around in Zurich, he is hardly disturbed. And if so, then not by Swiss, but by tourists. I also met him two or three times in Switzerland, so it was the same," Clarey said.