Waiting for him in his 100th ATP final is Gael Monfils, who hammered French compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 6-3, with the loser drawing jeers as he left the court in after 69 minutes.
Monfils, making his second consecutive Monte Carlo semi-final start, never allowed Tsonga a chance in their match, breaking six times.
Nadal will be playing his tenth final here and holds a solid 11-2 record over Monfils. He has not won a Masters title since Madrid, 2014.
“It’s a very important week for me, being in a final here again in Monte Carlo, winning against very tough opponents,” the winner said.
Spain’s fifth-seeded king of clay showed hints of the form which took him to multiple seasons of total dominance on the surface as he overcame second seed Murray in a battle lasting for more than two and a half hours.
“I don’t want to talk every day about if I am back or I am not back. I’m in the final of Monte Carlo. That’s a great news.
“Every year is different. Every feeling is different. I don’t want to compare myself or trying to analyse if I am the same like before or not.
“I want to be today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today, and after tomorrow better than tomorrow. That’s it. That’s my work today, and that’s my motivation. I don’t want to think about the past.”
It was not all one-way traffic for Nadal, who spent 10 minutes in the final game between his first match points and his fifth in fighting off a late Murray charge.
The 28-year-old Murray saved four match points and had two break chances of his own before Nadal finally drilled over a winner which the Scot could not quite handle.
Murray was unable to maintain his winning momentum after lifting the opening set against the Spaniard who has spent the last 18 months recovering mental confidence after a deep slump.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion has not won a title of any kind since last summer in Hamburg.
Nadal improved to 17-6 over Murray, defeating him seven of the eight times they have met on clay.
Murray will need to step up his pace on clay after winning his first two trophies on the surface last spring in Munich and Madrid back-to-back.
The Scot won the opening set in 49 minutes with a single break, but could not carry on after being broken at the start of the second set.
The second seed got the break back a game later but then lost serve for a second time in the seventh game as Nadal made a winning return off a Murray overhead.
The Spaniard claimed the set after more than an hour as the total match time ticked over to two hours.
Murray’s game went into collapse in the third set as he trailed 5-1 before his futile late rally.
The World Anti-Doping Agency’s statement of guidelines to stakeholders released on Wednesday regarding the prohibited substance meldonium – a drug which was detected in samples from 172 athletes this year so far, including Maria Sharapova – is nothing short of astonishing.
In a bizarre move, WADA admitted to having “limited data” on the urinary excretion of meldonium – which in laymen’s terms means they don’t exactly know how long it takes to flush out of one’s system.
They also stated that their main reason to ban the drug was the high prevalence of its use by athletes when they monitored the drug last year along with “claims of performance enhancement had been made by various authors, including the manufacturer of meldonium.”
That doesn’t sound like actual research was done into the exact performance-enhancing elements of the drug.
It sounds more like “we found that many athletes took it, and next year is an Olympic year, so let’s just ban it without doing the research”.
The statement also said that several studies are currently being conducted and that “in the case of meldonium, there is currently a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times.”
If WADA don’t know how long it takes this drug to get out of one’s system, then how exactly are athletes supposed to know when they should have stopped taking it prior to January 1, 2016, which is when the drug was officially added to the prohibited list?
You shoot me down / but I won't fall / I am Meldonium. https://t.co/lE8Z6hX8Ry— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) April 13, 2016
Also how can WADA go ahead and ban a drug before conducting all these “studies”?
After listing a series of scenarios involving the number of micrograms per milliliter of meldonium detected in an athlete’s sample, the WADA statement concludes that “there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete”.
Is this their way of giving an out to Sharapova and preparing the world for her return? Or do they know that the levels of the drug they found in her system are well above these exceptions and are confident this won’t affect her case?
The problem with the statement they made is that irrespective of Sharapova’s admission of negligence, and how much meldonium was found in her system, WADA have basically admitted to jumping the gun and banning a drug without completing their research and they laughably said that they can go as far as lifting an athlete’s suspension but holding the right to changing their mind in the future when their studies are complete.
Statement from Sharapova's lawyer following WADA's Meldonium statement: "it's clear WADA didn't handle this properly pic.twitter.com/93IwCN3FEh— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) April 13, 2016
We already have so little trust in anyone and anything at the moment and these revelations will only drive the public as well as the athletes to lose faith in WADA, whose reputation will no doubt be tarnished after this.
The loopholes they presented in their own process will throw many cases wide open and considering they have 172 positive tests so far this year, sorting through each and every one and finding out the degree of fault, intent and negligence based on shady research and vague guidelines will be a fool’s errand for the tribunals that are responsible for handing out suspensions.
It’s unclear exactly how this statement will affect Sharapova’s case but it undoubtedly gives her lawyers plenty to contest. If you come up with a law and admit to it being flawed then it becomes very difficult for you to legally ban people for breaking that flawed law.
Sorry, WADA, but you dropped the ball on this one and the statement from Sharapova’s lawyer is only just the start of some inescapable consequences.
Djokovic, winner of two of the last three editions in the Principality and the player who has dominated the ATP rankings over the past two seasons, was unable to mount a recovery against an opponent who got the upper hand by winning the opening set.
Djokovic came to the court with 22 consecutive wins in Masters 1000 play, with his last defeat coming in August in Cincinnati against Roger Federer.
The world number one had won his last 14 matches and holds four titles already in 2016, including the US Masters double from last month in Indian Wells and Miami.
This Djokovic loss could mean so much for the rest of the field but means almost nothing in grander scheme of things for the Serb himself— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) April 13, 2016