Nadal first to 11 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 23, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:12 AM, April 23, 2018

Nadal first to 11

Rafael Nadal romped to a record-extending 11th Monte Carlo Masters title by brushing aside an outclassed Kei Nishikori in Sunday's final to retain the world number one ranking.

The 31-year-old saw off Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 to become the first man to win a single tournament 11 times in the Open era with his 76th ATP Tour title. Nadal's 31st Masters title is also an outright record, pulling him out of a tie with Novak Djokovic.

"We've had some tough moments over these last five months," said Nadal, who was playing at his first ATP event since retiring from an Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic with a hip injury in January. "I'll enjoy the moment and then tomorrow we'll start to think about the next tournament. But now I'll enjoy winning a Masters 1000 tournament which doesn't happen every day."

The 16-time Grand Slam champion's era of utter dominance on clay looks unlikely to end any time soon after Nadal took his run of consecutive sets won on the surface to 36.

Nadal had to win the tournament to remain at the top of the world rankings ahead of Roger Federer, who is skipping the clay-court season, and he did just that without losing more than five games in a match.

The Spaniard will next set his sights on an 11th Barcelona Open victory next week, and it is hard to see anyone preventing him from extending his record number of 10 French Open titles at Roland Garros at the end of the clay-court season.

He was pushed by Japan's Nishikori early on and fell a break down, but roared back against an opponent who already appeared beaten midway through the first set.

It was still an excellent week for former world number four Nishikori, who only returned from a four-month absence with a wrist injury in January and will rise from his current ranking of 36 to the brink of the top 20.

Nadal got on the board with a strong service hold, before quickly putting Nishikori under pressure as a flicked passing shot brought up break point. But the Spaniard missed a forehand up the line by a matter of millimetres, with Nishikori clinging on after an 11-minute game that left him looking physically exhausted.

But that hold showed Nadal that his opponent was up for the fight. The top seed was even displaying rare signs of nerves, and Nishikori broke for a 2-1 lead with a backhand up the line after a Nadal double fault.

But he failed to build on that glimmer of an opening, double faulting himself on break-back point. That costly error knocked the early aggression out of the 28-year-old's groundstrokes, and Nadal sped through the next two games to take command of the first set.

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