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Rafael Nadal beats Japan's Kei Nishikori in final — Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal beats Japan's Kei Nishikori in final — Monte Carlo

Asked to describe his emotions after claiming his 11th Monte Carlo title, Rafael Nadal grinned and replied that the montage of his previous victories played during the presentation ceremony had made him feel old. Who will lift the title? "My legs were very heavy today, playing three sets (for) three days in a row (before the final)". 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.

He was pushed by Nishikori at the start of the first set and fell a break down, but the 16-time grand slam champion hit back to take the opener in 56 minutes. A victory for the Japanese didn't seem far away, and he got it in 2015 in Canada 6-2 6-4.

He won his last match against Nadal in the 2016 Olympic bronze-medal match in Rio de Janeiro, but has never beaten him on clay.

Rafael Nadal won an 11th Monte Carlo Masters title yesterday. He missed more than usual. He trails 9-2 against Nadal in head-to-heads.

The Spaniard will face either Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori in the showpiece in Monte Carlo as he looks to hold onto top spot in the rankings.

Nishikori, unseeded after his long injury layoff, began in the first round against 12th seed Tomas Berdych.

I want to thank all my team and my family.

Gavrilova teamed with Destanee Aiava to win the fifth doubles rubber, 6-3, 6-2.

Nishikori saved a set point with a sharp, angled volley at the net.

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Nishikori is trying to become the fourth straight first-time Masters winner. But Nishikori hung tough to close out a 6-4 6-7 6-3 win.

Nadal has been at his dominant best so far in Monte Carlo. "This means a lot", said Nadal, "especially because it is the first tournament in the year that I finished". A lot of tough games.

But the 28-year-old struggled to keep up with Nadal, 31.

"The history with this tournament is unique". Indeed, from the back of the court, Nishikori is typically rock solid. What can be exploited is his weak serving, particularly second deliveries.

The former world number four, now ranked 36, did enough to wear down a tired Zverev who came through a late-night thriller with Richard Gasquet on his 21st birthday on Friday.

Nadal's won 35 straight matches on clay.

The win, which was his 76 tournament title, keeps the Spaniard at No. 1 in the world. Nadal should also be fresh, having come through his half of the draw with consummate ease. Nishikori, meanwhile, has battled impressively but may well be feeling the effects of his hard work now.

Nadal's celebration was brief and low key.

Who do you think will win the title?