MONTE CARLO: Rafael Nadal returned to the final of the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time in three years, the eight-time champion struggling to close out a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Andy Murray on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
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.
“That’s a lot of great confidence, good news for me.
“Let’s see if tomorrow I can play at the same level.”
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 analyze 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.