Rafael Nadal clinched a record-extending 11th Monte Carlo title as he geared up for his French Open campaign with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Kei Nishikori.
Top seed Nadal, who is also targeting an 11th Roland Garros trophy this year, extended his run of consecutive sets won on clay to 36 after recording the win in an hour and 33 minutes.
The Spaniard’s record 31st Masters title also ensured he retained the world No.1 ranking ahead of rival Roger Federer.
“It is very special,” said Nadal.
“But 11 titles here, it’s unbelievable, so it’s something difficult to imagine. I always say the same: If I did it, somebody else can do it. But it is very difficult.
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The moment @RafaelNadal won his 11th Monte-Carlo title…
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 22, 2018
“My true feeling is these kind of things are not going to happen forever, so I just try to enjoy them and to play with the full passion and with the full energy and concentration, full love for the sport until I can.
“I know the day to say goodbye is closer than 10 years ago. It is something that I am not worried about, but it is a real thing.
“So I am just enjoying every day and trying to play with the best attitude possible, to keep being happy playing tennis. That’s all.”
Japan’s Nishikori, who missed a large part of last season with a wrist injury, grabbed an early break in the Monaco sunshine before his 31-year-old opponent won four games in a row to take control of the match.
Nadal took the opening set with a blistering forehand and went on to convert two breakpoint opportunities in the second to lift the title.
After retiring with a hip injury during his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic, Nadal withdrew from the Mexican Open, Indian Wells Masters and Miami Open due to the problem.
But the left-hander returned to action at the start of the month and won both his singles matches to help Spain beat Germany in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup in Valencia.
“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,” Nadal said at the presentation ceremony.
“I want to thank all my team and my family. We had some tough moments during the last five months after a couple of injuries in a row.
“It’s great to have a group of great people behind me. I can say thank you very much always for being there and supporting me when I really need it.”
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