Rafa wins title in Doha
Originally published on 04/01/14
New season, same story. Rafa Nadal, who won 10 titles in his remarkable comeback year in 2013, is off the mark in only the first week of the 2014 campaign. Nadal had never previously won a tournament in the opening week of the season, but a 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 victory over Gael Monfils in the final of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open gave the world No 1 the 61st title of his career.
Nine days before the start of the Australian Open, Nadal will be particularly pleased to have got so many matches under his belt given that he did not have as much time to practise as he would have liked during the off season after having treatment on his suspect knees.
Both of Monfils’ previous victories over Nadal had been in Doha, where he has now lost three finals, but on this occasion the Frenchman paid for a poor start. Nadal won the first five games and took the first set in just 23 minutes before the world No 31 found his range.
Monfils, nevertheless, played an excellent second set, which featured plenty of fine shot-making by both men. Monfils went 4-1 up before Nadal broke back for 4-4. The set went to a tie-break, in which every point but one went with serve. The only mini-break came when Nadal, serving at 2-3, hit a lob beyond the baseline.
The momentum appeared to be with Monfils, but in the fourth game of the decider he was broken after missing two forehands. Nadal, playing in his 15th final in his last 18 tournaments, saved a break point in the following game and went on to break again to claim win No 663 of his career.
Nadal has now won titles in 17 different countries. This latest win took him one title ahead of Andre Agassi’s career tally and into eighth place on the Open era list. The only men ahead of the 27-year-old Spaniard are Jimmy Connors (109), Ivan Lendl (94), Roger Federer (77), John McEnroe (77), Bjorn Borg (64), Pete Sampras (64) and Guillermo Vilas (62).