Not the most surprising of sports headlines—Rafael Nadal wins on clay. Sunday's defeat of compatriot David Ferrer is the 24-year-old's 30th tournament victory on the surface and his seventh in a row at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The victory arrived in straight sets after over two hours of tennis and although it was by no means a flawless performance, it goes some way to showing that, more often than not, Nadal doesn't have to be at his best to win on his beloved clay.
It had a been a relatively easy passage through to the last four for the reigning Monte Carlo champion for the previous six years but he was pushed to three sets by a stubborn Andy Murray, the Brit eventually losing out 6-4, 2-6, 6-1. Murray had had an injection in his elbow to allow him to play but that could come at a price, as he is now a doubt to compete in this week's Barcelona Open.
Victory had secured Nadal's passage to the final where fellow Spaniard David Ferrer was always going to prove a tough opponent. Ferrer actually hit more winners than Nadal and battled bravely but the likes of Nadal, Federer and now Djokovic have an extra gear for the match-changing points.
Nadal broke as early as the third game but clever and unpredictable play from Ferrer never allowed his opponent to settle and he would soon break back. Despite unforced errors creeping into his game, Nadal was able to gain the initiative once again and hung on to secure the first set 6-4.
The second set was a case of déjà vu as Nadal again broke in the third game but Ferrer kept chipping away and brought the set back to serve before Rafa had a chance to close out victory. At 5-5 in the second, Ferrer had to hold serve to at least guarantee a tie-break but Nadal showed why he has 44 tournament victories to date, by cruelly breaking and serving out for the match.
The game was over on second match point and 6-4, 7-5 it finished. Nadal and indeed Ferrer, will now head to Barcelona for the much anticipated Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. There will be no Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic but the field still contains a number of top 10 players including Soderling, Berdych and Murray, subject to overcoming his elbow injury.
The qualifiers were held over the weekend and amongst those now in the main draw is Finland's Jarkko Nieminen. The final will take place on Sunday April 24th and don't be surprised if it's a repeat of Monte Carlo.