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Monday, April 19, 2010

Rafael Nadal wins sixth consecutive Monte Carlo title

Rafael Nadal produced a devastating display to beat fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and secure a sixth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters title.

Nadal won 6-0 6-1 in just one hour and 26 minutes - his 32nd straight victory at the Monte Carlo Country Club.

It is his first tournament win since Rome last May and he has struggled with knee injuries in the meantime.

But the former world number one showed he is back to his best as he dropped 14 games in five matches in Monte Carlo.

The victory also served notice of Nadal's intent to regain the French Open crown he surrendered to Roger Federer last year after four straight titles.

"Last year I did not play well [here] but I won. This year my level is completely different," he said.

"This year is really special for me because I had a little bit of a hard time for the last year.

"I was back to my best level on 1 January. I was ready to win before this tournament."

The 23-year-old becomes the first player to win six consecutive titles at the same tournament since tennis turned professional in 1968, and moves level with Federer on 16 Masters titles - one behind Andre Agassi's record of 17.

"If he plays like this, no one can beat him," said Verdasco. "He beat everyone in six years here and I'm just one of them."

Nadal began in blistering fashion, reeling off the first seven points on the Verdasco serve on his way to a double-break.

One breathtaking backhand cross-court winner left an advancing Verdasco helpless at the net, and there was no let-up from the four-time French Open champion.

After a third break of serve was secured for 5-0, a shell-shocked Verdasco called for assistance and lay flat out at the changeover as the trainer massaged his neck.

The world number 12 was on the ropes early in the second set and did well to hang on, fending off four more break points - one with a huge backhand winner - to finally get a game on the board.

A tortuous afternoon took another bad turn for Verdasco at 1-1 when he made two double-faults in succession and, after gamely saving another two break points, Nadal whipped a mighty forehand across him at the net for the crucial breakthrough.

There was a half-chance for Verdasco at 30-30 in the following game but Nadal found the perfect angle with a sliced backhand to get past him at the net and consolidate his advantage.

A forlorn Verdasco gave up a fifth break as he frustratingly thumped a forehand into the net to fall 4-1 behind moments later.

Verdasco did win the rally of the match in an entertaining game six that included drop shots, lobs, scrambling and smashes, and ended with the challenger falling to his knees in mock celebration as he at last enjoyed a victory of sorts.

But even in such a commanding position, and with the title within his grasp, Nadal battled fiercely to save six break points before using his forehand to dismantle the Verdasco serve yet again - confirming that he remains very much the man to beat on clay.

"I think he had an unbelievable day and he played really good," said Verdasco. "He played really good during the whole week, not only today."

Nadal added: "It was emotional for me. It was my best week for a long time. It's unbelievable, Monte Carlo is my favourite tournament."

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