World No. 1 Rafael Nadal captured his debut Qatar Open title by beating unseeded Gael Monfils in three sets in Doha this afternoon and extended the head-to-head lead to 9-2. Both of the Frenchman’s triumphs over the top seed came on the hard courts of Doha, the last one in the semi-finals two years ago.
Rafa was quick out of the blocks in the first set as he started the encounter with a five straight games run before allowing the powerless opponent getting on the board. The Spanish champion surrendered only five points on his serve in the opener which he wrapped up in style with a hold to love.
31st-ranked Monfils came out a different player in the set number two to build a 4-1 one break advantage, yet Nadal recovered expressly and made it 4-4 in no time. A tie-break showdown would follow with the Frenchman grabbing a mini-break after a successful net approach. He soon acquired a triple set point and ultimately smashed an ace to force a decider.
The Spaniard was back on track in the final set where he remained a constant threat to his adversary’s serve – he pulled 3-1 ahead and consolidated the break after escaping a 0-40 danger. The rest of the clash has turned out to be merely a formality as Nadal broke the Frenchman for the second time in the set to complete a 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory after two hours of tennis. By taking his 61st ATP crown he passed Andre Agassi and moved to the eighth place of the all-time title holders list. Monfils scored 13 aces to Rafa’s 2 over the course of the match, yet he could not prevent losing his third championship clash at the Qatar Open.
“Every victory is important and the title today means a lot to me,” Nadal commented. “It is the first time in my career that I am able to start the season with a victory. That’s always important.”
“At the end, it’s still Rafa. Rafa is strong, hitting hard the ball,” Monfils said. “It’s always tough to play against him and at the end he was a bit better than me today…I will still work hard and I will be confident the first day in Australia.”