Rafael Nadal claimed the ninth Roland Garros crown in 2014. The Spaniard struggled with injuries and failed to challenge rivals from the top for the next two years, despite remaining in the top 10. Nadal had to wait almost two years to claim another notable title, winning the trophy in Monte Carlo 2016 over Gael Monfils.
It was Rafa’s ninth crown in the principality and it matched Novak Djokovic’s 28 Masters 1000 trophies. It took Nadal two hours and 46 minutes to unseat Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, passing the second set and storming over the opponent in the decider.
In doing so, the Spaniard claimed his 68th ATP title and secured at least one for the 13th straight season. Gael gave it his all to challenge the king of clay in the first two sets. Still, he faded from the spot in the deciding set and missed a chance to win the first Masters 1000 trophy.
The crowd at Court Rainier III had the opportunity to see all that a match on clay has to offer. There were extended baseline rallies, sharp and accurate winners, overwhelming defense and a transition to offense mode on both sides.
In short, it was one of the best games of 2016 and a finale to remember! For Gael it was the tournament of his career up to that point, although he won five other titles. The Frenchman played great tennis in the first five encounters en route to the final, challenging Rafa by two sets.
There were 13 breaks of serve and five each in the first and second sets. Monfils knew how to challenge Nadal, staying in rallies long enough to create an opportunity for the attack and changing the pace of his shots to keep Rafa out of his comfort zone.
Monfils created a break chance in game three, which Nadal saved with a well-constructed attack. Rafa stole the rival’s serve in the next for an early advantage. The Spaniard failed to cement it and was broken in game five to keep the opposition on the positive side.
Gael fended off two break chances in the next game before Rafa broke him 4-3 for another advantage.
Rafael Nadal defeated Gael Monfils in the 2016 Monte Carlo final.
Monfils fought back to extend an already extended first set, converting the third break chance in that ninth game.
Gael erased three set points on serve, leveling 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 the second set strong and it looked like Gael couldn’t follow that pace anymore.
Nonetheless, an inspired Frenchman proved dead wrong as he continued to push Nadal to the limit and fight for every point. Gael broke first, stealing Rafa’s serve in game three and opening a 3-1 gap after conceding three break chances in the next game.
Rafa was in danger of losing two breaks, fending off a break chance in game five to stay within a break deficit. The Spaniard pulled the break back in game six to level the score at 3-3. Players traded another pair of breaks in games seven and eight to keep the crowd in their seats.
This time Monfils kept his composure better, breaking Nadal in game 11 and serving to finish another marathon set to send the duel into a decider! After seeing everything tennis can produce in the opening two sets, Gael had nothing left in the tank to remain competitive in the final set.
The Spaniard lost just four points on serve and broke Monfils three times for a comfortable 6-0, ending the game in a completely different way compared to the first two sets. The Frenchman won just five points from the initial shot and failed to hold in three attempts.
He allowed Nadal to end the encounter with a fantastic forehand down the line to go 5-0, ending his nearly two-year losing streak without a major title.