Photo: Rafael Nadal
Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, ranked No. 1 in the world, took his first title of the season and the 61st of his career by downing France’s Gael Monfils on Saturday in the final of the Qatar ExxonMobile Open at Doha by 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 in a two-hour match.
The win had a taste of revenge about it for the Spaniard, who lost only twice in his career to Monfils but both times at Doha, where the Frenchman beat Nadal in the 2012 semifinals and the 2009 quarterfinals.
Those losses might well have spurred the Spanish player to Saturday’s explosive start, with two straight service breaks that had Nadal quickly up 4-0 on the scoreboard and taking the set 6-1 just 23 minutes into the match.
Not so fast: Monfils, rated No. 31 in the world, came back to break the Spaniard’s serve in the second game of the second set to go ahead 0-2. Nadal fought it down to the wire but Monfils had his moment of glory and took the set.
But the Frenchman was unable to keep his good game going in the third, when some missed opportunities to break his opponent’s serve gave Nadal the set, match, and first-ever Doha title.
The victory allows Nadal, who was cheered on from the grandstand by former Real Madrid player Raul Gonzalez Blanco, to rack up the 61st tournament win of his career and, most importantly, to head for the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 13 in Melbourne, with all the optimism in the world.