Eight time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal of Spain made a statement that he is not going anywhere as he avenged his sole clay court loss to the second seeded Andy Murray of Scotland. He will play the enigmatic Frenchman Gael Monfils in the final, Monfils beat his fellow countryman Jo Wilfred Tsonga in straight sets.
Murray who had beaten Nadal in their last meeting on clay, which also took place in Madrid last year, to claim his maiden clay court Masters title, began well by breaking in the sixth and the eighth game of the first set. Nadal broke in the opening game of the second set, but Murray immediately got the break back and the two held serve till 3-3 in the second set.
Nadal took the lead for good and forced the decider as he held serve in the tenth game. Nadal broke service again in the opening game of the third set and then broke in the fifth game to all but seal the match. He did have to fight as Murray saved four match points before winning 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and forty four minutes.
Nadal has been a winner at this event from 2005 to 2012, he also has a 57-4 record at this event. He would be contesting his 100th career final and hoping to equal Novak Djokovic’s tally of 28 Master’s titles which the latter accomplished by winning the Miami ATP 1000 on April 3, 2016 beating Kei Nishikori of Japan in the final. Nadal takes a 67-32 record in career finals into the final tomorrow.
Gael Monfils then became the first Frenchman to reach the final in Monte Carlo since Cedric Pioline who went on to win the title that year. In a surprisingly lopsided contest Monfils broke serve twice in the opening set and then took a commanding 4-1 lead in the second set. Tsonga would reduce the deficit to 3-4, but the thirteenth seed would then reel off the last two games for a 6-1,6-3 win in just 70 minutes.
Monfils has a 5-18 record in finals and also trails the Spaniard 2-11 in career head to head matches. Monfils beat Nadal in Doha in the years 2009 and 2012 and has clearly grown in stature over the last couple of years. This year he made it to the final of the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam, reached the quarter finals in Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami Masters.
Nadal, who has won a record nine French Open in Roland Garros, is widely regarded as the greatest ever player on clay and would go as the clear favourite in the final. Monfils will have to play as well as he did against Tsonga to pose any problems for the Spaniard. This could be a worthy final but few would bet against Nadal on clay no matter the opponent.
Prediction: Nadal in three sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]