MONTE CARLO, Monaco, April18 – Rafael Nadal pronounced himself "a lucky guy" after sweeping to a seventh straight title at the Monte Carlo Masters by dispatching fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-4, 7-5 on Sunday.
"It would have been impossible to imagine a few years ago winning seven titles here," Nadal said after a victory in two hours and 16 minutes, his 12th of 16 against his good friend. "I’m a lucky guy to have done this by age 24."
Nadal faced a few minor challenges on court in postcard-perfect conditions with a sleek, discreet mega-yacht tethered just offshore at the Mediterranean playground.
"I’m very emotional, it’s so fantastic to win again in Monte Carlo," said Nadal, the only man to win six titles at the same event — let alone seven.
"I feel the most emotions at the Masters events and it’s so special here."
"I was nervous in the last game, especially on the second match point, but I’m happy with how I closed out the match," added the champion, who has once again embarked on the road to Roland Garros next month in the best possible way.
"I felt more tired on court than usual, but these are the kind of matches that help the physical and mental fitness for the rest of the clay season."
Nadal was playing his third straight final after losing to Novak Djokovic in title bids last month at Indian Wells and Miami.
"I’ve played a lot of tennis but the last six weeks have been very positive, I have a lot of confidence."
Nadal was 24 hours removed from his three-hour struggle with an injured Andy Murray, who played their three-set epic with a right elbow injected with pain-killing cortisone.
Murray and his team drove the 600 kilometres to Barcelona on Sunday, where he will have a medical examination and decide over the next few days if he can play in the ATP event as second seed behind Nadal.
Ferrer admitted that he had again been beaten by the best.
"Rafa is incredible on clay, he’s everywhere at the same time," said Ferrer. "He’s the best player on clay in history."
Nadal has ruled at Monte Carlo since losing his only match in the principality in his 2003 debut year as a 16-year-old.
He has now won 37 straight Monte Carlo matches with a 39-1 record at the tournament.
Sunday’s win marked the 44th career trophy for Spain’s top player, who now owns a record 19 titles at the Masters 1000 level and has beaten compatriots in all nine of the all-Spanish finals he has played.
Nadal won a 30th clay-court trophy, tying him for third place in the post-1968 Open era with Bjorn Borg and Spain’s Manuel Orantes.
The victory was also revenge for Ferrer’s straight-sets win over Nadal in an Australian Open quarter-final three months ago.
Nadal and Ferrer duelled as familiar opponents in a 74-minute opening set, with a run of three straight breaks putting Nadal in 3-2 command.
The world number one used his edge to take the opener and break for a 2-1 lead early in the second.
But a few errors crept in as Nadal double-faulted and fired an errant backhand to hand the break back for a score of 4-4.
That amounted to little as the king of clay broke again for a 6-5 lead and closed it out on his second match point a game later when Ferrer miscued a volley.