04/22 09:59 CDT Nadal beats Nishikori to win Monte Carlo Masters
Nadal beats Nishikori to win Monte Carlo Masters
By JEROME PUGMIRE
AP Sports Writer
MONACO (AP) --- Rafael Nadal won a record 31st Masters title after beating Kei
Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 in the Monte Carlo Masters final on Sunday.
Nadal also became the first man in the Open era to win the same title 11 times
--- 13 years after his first title here --- and moved one ahead of rival Novak
Djokovic for career Masters titles.
It gave him a 76th title overall and ensured the Spaniard keeps his top ranking
ahead of Roger Federer.
Nishikori was chasing a first Masters title, but the Japanese player took 11
minutes to hold for 1-1.
He got some brief hope, breaking Nadal with a superb passing shot at full
stretch to lead 2-1, but meekly surrendered the next four games.
The second set was a procession and Nadal won on his first match point with a
stinging backhand winner.
Nadal's celebration was brief and low key. He thrust both hands into the air,
and then jogged over to offer Nishikori a sympathetic hug after beating him for
the 10th time in 12 meetings.
Nishikori saved a set point with a sharp, angled volley at the net. But Nadal
was in relentless mood and sealed it on his next chance with a crisp forehand
Nishikori is still working his way back to form and full fitness, after missing
the 2017 U.S. Open and this year's Australian Open because of a torn tendon in
his right wrist.
"It was a great week for me, I had an injury and couldn't play for a long
time," said Nishikori, who is ranked 36th.
Nadal has not dropped a set in seven matches since coming back from a
recurrence of a right hip injury that forced him to abandon during the fifth
set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.
The injury relapse subsequently forced him out of the Mexico Open and Masters
tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, but Nadal now looks back to his ruthless
best on clay.
He has his sights firmly set on an 11th title at Barcelona next week and then
an 11th French Open title at Roland Garros.
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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire