Mighty Mallorcan Rafael Nadal has today claimed his sixth consecutive title at Monte Carlo after defeating Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1 in an all-Spanish final. It was the first Masters 1000 final for Verdasco who came out understandably nervous, dropping his opening service game to love. Verdasco then seemed to settle into the match thumping some forehand winners at 169kmph to get to deuce on Rafa’s serve, but Nadal was too dominant.
There were opportunities for Verdasco who at one point had Rafa on the run and could have put away a volley into the open court instead Rafa just managed to get his racquet to it, somehow finding the inside of the line, giving Nadal a 2-0 lead.
Before long Nadal had taken 13 of 18 points on Verdasco’s serve and racing to a 5-0 lead and putting him in position to serve the set out to love. On the change of ends a medical time out way called for Fernando as he received treatment to his neck and looked to be in considerable pain as his muscles were released and his facet joints were mobilized and rotated to try to free his neck. He was also given some pain medication.
Verdasco continued to stretch his neck and put up some resistance but ultimately Nadal walked away with his third 6-0 set of the tournament in just 35 minutes.
Fernando opened proceedings in the second set looking incredibly frustrated as Nadal found himself with another break point, with Fernando saved by an error from Nadal. An ace from a weary Verdasco saved another break point opportunity. Let cords were sitting up for Nadal allowing him to strike, bringing up yet another break point chance which Fernando saved with an incredible millimeter perfect cross court backhand, landing just out of Nadal’s reach. An ace ended Fernando’s misery in just over 7 minutes, allowing him to get on the board for the first time in the match.
The long service game for Fernando appeared to start to take it’s toll physically, a common problem against Rafa who manages to wear you down (even if he doesn’t claim the game) without looking tired. He tied to swing freely, figuring he had nothing to lose, thumping a few incredible winners, but Nadal was too accurate and playing with too much spin for Fernando to be able to control the points.
Nadal normally has incredible spin but his new black strings on his Babolat racquet has seven different sides that tend to get threaded a little softer than what he used to play with, allowing him to control the ball direction with the extra spin. For his opponents it just makes his weight of shot that much heavier.
Fernando had game points on his own serve but served two double faults in a row to bring up deuce. You could almost feel it coming. It appeared that he was wincing slightly as he tried to serve, with the ball hitting mid net indicating he had decelerated and had poor timing contact with the ball, making me wonder if his neck was also affecting his shoulder. A brilliant running cross court forehand passing shot gave Nadal the critical break of serve.
As if to answer my question about his shoulders, the physio tried to release his shoulders in the change of ends. When Nadal raced to a 4-1 lead some members of the audience whistled in displeasure at the lack of fight in the match.
Fernando let a few Spanish profanities slip as he missed 2 break back points, and raised his hands to the heavens to ask why when he missed a third. The Monte Carlo crowd got to their feet as Fernando fell to his knees and blew a kiss skyward after an incredible point with an insane lob from Nadal somehow finding the line and both players covering substantial ground giving Fernando his fourth break point and the opportunity to win his second game. After just over 13 minutes and 5 break points Nadal took a 5-1 lead to force Fernando to stay in the match and prolong the inevitable.
Uncle Toni was on his feet when his nephew got his first championship point, with Rafa falling to the ground in relief and with raw emotion as he claimed the title once again. Nadal then sat down letting his emotions go and sobbing into his towel as his beloved clay courts became his salvation.
It was refreshing to see just how much the title, and the end of the drought, meant to Nadal. In winning Nadal became the first man in history to win 6 consecutive Masters 1000 level tournaments. Notably absent from our TV screens was Xisca Perello, Rafa’s girlfriend who traveled with him from Mallorca. Rafa’s dad and sister were in his box supporting him.
Coming into the match Rafa had won all 9 of their previous meetings and had 15-6 record in Masters 100 level finals. It is the first title Nadal has claim since Rome almost 1 year ago.
The players will now hop on a bus together to Barcelona tomorrow as air travel throughout Europe is currently not permitted due to the ash being spread across Europe from an erupting Icelandic volcano. Rafa will try to defend his Barcelona title next week, where if he wins it will also be the sixth consecutive time he’s lifted the trophy.