Rafael Nadal Swats Aside Kei Nishikori To Seal 11th Monte Carlo Crown
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 right 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 millimeters, with Nishikori clinging on after an 11-minute game that left him looking physically exhausted.
But that hold showed Nadal, who first won the event in 2005, 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.
Nishikori forced a break point in the seventh game but fired long with the court wide open as Nadal kept his nose in front.
He struggled a little to serve out the opener, but although Nishikori saved one set point with an exquisite backhand volley, Nadal clinched it on the second with a punch of the air celebrating a pair of blistering forehands.
Nishikori was staring down the barrel of defeat at the start of the second set, but staved off a break point to hold serve.
But the last rites had long been written, and Nadal broke to 15 in each of the Japanese’s next two service games to close on victory.
The greatest player to ever step foot on a clay court secured his 24th Masters title on the surface with a venomous backhand that flew past the hapless Nishikori.