World No. 1 Rafael Nadal overpowered Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-5 to win the Japan Open yesterday, capping a week of “Nadal Fever” in Tokyo.
It was the Spaniard’s seventh title of the year and improved his ATP Tour record to 66-8 after a flawless match in which Monfils failed to force a single break-point.
“I want to finish the season well and winning titles is a perfect way to finish,” Nadal told reporters. “It’s difficult to keep winning. I have to enjoy these moments because you never know when they will end. I’m going to try to keep it going in Shanghai [this week] and the rest of the season and in London [ATP Tour Finals] — the most difficult tournament for me. Gael is a great player. He beat me in 2009 and we had a tough match at the US Open the same year, but I played really well today.”
Nadal bounced onto the court like a prizefighter and quickly had fifth seed Monfils on the ropes with some brutal hitting from the baseline.
He wrapped up the first set with a ferocious forehand down the line, but Monfils, who survived a fright when he took an early tumble and turned his ankle, raised his game in the second.
The Frenchman’s extra energy gave the match its highlight point in the 10th game when he scrambled to return two overheads from Nadal.
Monfils charged the net after clawing back the second and dived in front of Nadal, whose third smash narrowly missed giving Monfils a sore backside, after which the two men touched hands.
Luck deserted Monfils in the next game, a net cord giving Nadal break-point and the Spaniard nosed ahead 6-5 when a sliced backhand return floated past Monfils and landed flush on the line.
Nadal delivered the knockout punch in the next game, a big serve to the body ending the match and giving this year’s triple Grand Slam champion a 43rd career title.
He celebrated by striking a gunslinger’s pose as a packed crowd of 10,000 in Tokyo erupted in cheers.
Nadal, a nine-time Grand Slam winner, pocketed US$260,000 for winning on his debut in Japan.
The end of the match triggered a stampede for Nadal’s autograph and it took him 20 minutes to leave the court as he signed everything from baseball caps to teddy bears.
“I think Rafa likes my type of game and I didn’t find a solution to give him any trouble,” Monfils said.
World No. 2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic was leading Spain’s David Ferrer 3-1 in the first set of the final of the China Open yesterday when play was suspended because of persistent rain.
The match had been due to begin at 4pm at the Olympic Green Tennis Center in Beijing, but heavy rain forced organizers to postpone play for more than four hours.
When the players did take the court, the 23-year-old Djokovic got off to a blistering start, putting his entire arsenal on display, including a deft drop-shot to take the first game. He broke Ferrer to lead 3-1.
Twenty minutes into the match, heavy rain again fell, forcing organizers to halt play — but not before Djokovic won over the fans by grabbing a towel himself to try to dry off the court, getting a laugh from Ferrer.
Organizers had yet to announce when the match would resume.
Both Djokovic and Ferrer are due in Shanghai this week for the Masters event.
The WTA women’s final between top seed Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Vera Zvonareva had been scheduled to begin at 7:30pm.