Monte Carlo Masters: Record ninth title for Rafael Nadal in 100th career final
Rafael Nadal's mission to win a 10th French Open title received a welcome boost Sunday as he outlasted Gael Monfils to win the Monte Carlo Masters title.
Nadal, appearing in his 100th ATP Tour final, won 7-5 5-7 6-0 in two hours 46 minutes to claim his ninth title in the Principality, but his first since 2012.
The 29-year-old Spaniard certainly did it the hard way again after his three-set battle with Andy Murray in the semifinals, but he took control of the decider as Monfils wilted, failing to win a further game.
"It's great to win a Masters title again," Nadal said after his victory.
"I had a tough season last year, but I've had better preparation this year, even with a tough start to the season," he added.
Rafael Nadal claimed his 76th career singles title
Nadal is running into form ahead of next month's second grand slam of the season on the clay of Roland Garros, having indeed struggled earlier in the year, losing in the opening round of the Australian Open.
World number one Novak Djokovic won that title, but his defense of the Monte Carlo Open crown ended early, stunned in the second round by Czech Jiri Vesely.
That left the way clear for Nadal to claim his 28th Masters 1000 crown, drawing level on the all-time list with Djokovic, and 68th title overall, although he had to come from a set down to beat Murray in the last four.
"I want to thank all my team and my family. We had some tough moments during the past five months after a couple of injuries in a row," added Nadal.
Nadal withdrew from the Mexican Open, Indian Wells Masters and Miami Open because of the hip problem before returning at the start of the month for Spain's Davis Cup quarter-final against Germany.
Former world number four Nishikori only returned from a four-month absence with a right wrist injury in January.
"I want to congratulate Kei for a great week. It's always difficult to be back from injury and I'm happy to see you again playing well," said Nadal.
Sealed with a kiss: Nadal embraces his girlfriend Xisca Perello after winning in Monte CArlo for a record ninth time.
It was his 48th clay-court crown, one behind the record 49 of Argentina's Guillermo Vilas, and his first Masters crown since Madrid in 2014.
"I hope this week helps me a lot," Nadal said as he heads to Barcelona this week with the chance to equal that landmark.