Rafael Nadal eases past Kei Nishikori to claim 11th Monte Carlo crown - Numbers behind his latest clay success

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Rafael Nadal’s ‘Operation Undecima’ has got off to a successful start as the world No. 1 defeated Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 to lift an 11th Monte Carlo trophy on Sunday.

This clay campaign, Nadal is also bidding for an 11th Barcelona crown and an 11th Roland Garros title, having completed an unprecedented ‘Decima’ in all three tournaments last season.

Nadal, who struggled with a knee injury end of last year, suffered a hip problem in January that sidelined him for more than two months. Nishikori, who was out of action with a wrist injury from August 2017 until the end of January 2018, was playing his first final since Buenos Aires in February last season.

“I want to congratulate Kei for a great week. Always difficult to be back from injuries, I know Kei had a tough one last year and he’s back. I’m happy to see you again playing well, congrats to your team too and I wish you all the best for the rest of the season,” Nadal told the Japanese former US Open runner-up during the trophy ceremony.

Addressing his own team, Nadal added: “We had some tough moments during the last five months after a couple of injuries in a row. It’s great to have a group of great people behind me. Just I can say thank you very much for being there and supporting me when I really need it.”

Here’s a look at the numbers behind Nadal’s latest clay exploits.

PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF

It’s almost like he was never gone! Playing his first tournament since last January’s Australian Open following a psoas injury that forced him to retire during the quarter-finals there, Nadal defended his Monte Carlo title to extend his winning streak that started at Roland Garros last year.

The Mallorcan has now won a career-best 36 consecutive sets on the red dirt. As Nishikori aptly put it during the trophy ceremony on Sunday, he congratulated Nadal on “dominating too much”.

CRUISE CONTROL

Nadal won the Monte Carlo title without dropping a set for the fifth time in his career and dropped just 21 games in the five matches he contested this week. He never lost more than four games in a set all week.

It’s remarkable considering his list of victims looks like this: R2 – Aljaz Bedene, R3 – Karen Khachanov, QF – Dominic Thiem, SF – Grigor Dimitrov, F – Kei Nishikori.

MASTER OF THE MASTERS

Nadal’s triumph on Sunday saw him break the record of most Masters 1000 trophies won by claiming a 31st overall. He was previously sharing the record with Novak Djokovic, who has 30 Masters titles to his name.

SHAKY FOREHAND, NO PROBLEM

Nadal’s forehand may have deserted him a bit in his last two matches, where he hit a combined 21 unforced errors off that side in the semi-finals and final. But it ultimately didn’t matter as he proved clinical when he needed it to the most.

STILL ON TOP

The 31-year-old’s successful title defence in the Principality means that he has managed to hold off Roger Federer from reclaiming the No. 1 ranking for at least one more week. Nadal needed to win in Monaco to extend his reign at the top to a 171st week overall.

GATHERING STEAM

Having played just five matches in the first three months of the season, Nadal’s 2018 campaign has picked up thanks to two wins in Davis Cup in Valencia earlier this month and his trophy run in Monte Carlo. He is now 11-1 this year and enters Barcelona on a seven-match winning streak.

CLAYTASTIC

Monte Carlo is Nadal’s 54th clay title from 76 won overall. His winning record on the surface throughout his career is currently 91.9 per cent .

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