Doha - Rafael Nadal at last made a title-winning start to a year when he
held off Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 to clinch the Qatar Open on
It was world number one Nadal's 61st career title and took him to eighth on the all-time list, passing Andre Agassi.
never had the chance to win here before. I had match points against
Davydenko in the final a few years back," said Nadal, who was runner-up
to Russia's Nikolay Davydenko in 2010.
"I'm happy to start the
season like this, it's the first time I have won a title in the first
week of the year and it's a great way to start the season."
took his record over Monfils to 9-2 with the Frenchman having achieved
both his wins over the Spaniard in Doha, in 2009 and 2012.
It was a
fine start for Nadal to a year in which he hopes to ward off Novak
Djokovic's challenge for the world number one spot, and in a month when
he hopes to regain the Australian Open title after a five-year interval.
standard rose increasingly as the two-hour contest wore on, and his
baseline rallying gradually became tenaciously indestructible, its peak
coming in the fourth and fifth games of the final set.
when he made a crucial break of Monfils' serve, and followed it by
recovering from love-40 down to saving five break points altogether and
consolidate his match-winning lead.
That fifth game was punctuated
by moments of drama when Monfils thought he had earned a sixth break
back point, only for a line judge to call Nadal's over-hit backhand
TV replays confirmed that the shot was indeed out, but
Monfils had missed his chance to appeal to the Hawkeye video replay
system because he had continued the rally for another stroke.
"A title is always a title especially in the first week when I have never won before," added Nadal.
started to see some great play from Gael, and if he (continues to) play
like this he has a good chance of reaching the top ten."
ago Monfils defeated title-holder Richard Gasquet and altogether scored
four express victories which did indeed suggest that for the
Guadeloupe-born Frenchman the best, at the age of 27, may yet lie ahead.
the first 25 minutes on Saturday, Monfils was too nervous to do himself
justice, and it was not until the first game of the second set that he
began to get going.
Monfils followed it with some brilliant inside
out forehand driving which earned him a break of serve, and became
really excited when he saved two break back points to reach 4-1.
that he became extremely dangerous, serving ferociously, often rallying
intelligently, and always capable of delivering a bombshell winner.
Nadal characteristically worked his way back to parity Monfils produced
a wonderful angled return on the sixth point of the tie-break which
earned a mini-break that won him the second set.
"The crowd and
the court here are unbelievable and I just feel very good here," said
Monfils, who was playing his third final in Doha after losing to Roger
Federer in 2006 and compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2012.
started very slow, but Rafa put me under pressure from the first point
and I had not played any matches like this, this week. It was tough to
"I just hung around a little bit and waited for the second set, and then I played stronger. It was a battle."
Nadal's praise of the final went further than that.
a very special moment," he said, grateful perhaps that despite his
injury-restricted off-season schedule he is beginning to play to a high
"It was important to survive, and it was a pretty
tough win against a tough opponent. I am very glad to start (the season)