Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 13, 2020.
Since the series launched in 1990, only six men have won 11 or more ATP Masters 1000 titles. One of these men, Rafael Nadal, remarkably accomplished this feat in a single event.
The Spaniard has won the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters 11 times, matching former world No. 1 Pete Sampras on all Masters 1000 tournaments with his dominating reign in the Principality.
From his tournament debut at age 16 in 2003, when he beat reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa to reach the third round, Nadal has consistently produced his best tennis at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. The Mallorcan, who won 71 of his 76 matches at the event, won an Open-Era record eight successive titles from 2005 to 2012 and three more consecutive crowns from 2016 to 2018.
ATPTour.com looks back on each of Nadal’s 11 title races in Monte-Carlo.
2005: the reign begins
Two years after surprising Costa on his Monte-Carlo debut, Nadal won his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy in the Principality. After recovering from a semi-final set against Richard Gasquet, who had beaten Roger Federer, Nadal met defending champion Guillermo Coria in the league game.
Coria ended Nadal’s first appearance in Monte Carlo with a three-set victory in 2003, but Nadal had improved his game considerably since that encounter. The Spaniard fought for a 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 victory after three hours and nine minutes to win what was the biggest title of his career.
2006: A classic finale
After a decisive 2005 season, Nadal returned to Monte-Carlo the following year as world No. 2 and reigning Roland Garros champion. The Spaniard passed Coria and Gaston Gaudio to book a final clash against world No.1 Roger Federer, whom he had beaten in three of their last four ATP Head2Head clashes. Nadal successfully defended an TBEN title for the first time in a three hour and 50 minute classic, triumphing 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (5).
2007: Hattrick finished
After losing to Federer in the 2006 Wimbledon final and the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP final, Nadal had the opportunity to face the Swiss once again on his favorite surface in the 2007 Monte-Carlo Championship match. Nadal, who hasn’t lost a set en route to the final, continued his dominant display against Federer with a break of serve in each set to lift the trophy for the third year in a row.
2008: A completed trilogy
After back-to-back wins against Top 5 players David Ferrer and Nikolay Davydenko, Nadal met Federer at the Monte-Carlo Country Club for the third year in a row with the trophy at stake.
Nadal snatched the first set with a late break, but Federer threatened to force a decider after taking a 4-0 lead in the second set. Nadal, the reigning three-time champion, however, battled his rival in the Principality, winning the title with another late break in service to complete an impressive trio of final victories against his rival in the Principality. Nadal and Federer have not met in Monte-Carlo since that day.
2009: a new chapter
Competing as world No.1 in Monte Carlo for the first time, Nadal qualified for his fifth consecutive final of the tournament without losing a set. In the championship match, he faces Novak Djokovic for the first time in Monte-Carlo.
Djokovic had already beaten Nadal in each of the Masters 1000 events in North America, but the Spaniard had won each of his previous six encounters on clay, losing a set in total. Djokovic doubled that number by forcing a decisive set in Monte Carlo, but Nadal raised his game to clinch his fifth title in the Principality. The match marked the start of a new chapter in their rivalry, with the couple meeting three more times during the tournament.
2010: Merciless Rafa
When Nadal ends his career, he can consider the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters 2010 as the most dominant tournament of his career. The Spaniard entered the event on an 11-month trophy drought, dating back to his 2009 victory at Internazionali BNL d’Italia. But he lost just 14 games in five matches to win his sixth successive Monte Carlo crown. Nadal defeated Thiemo de Bakker, Michael Berrer and the Spanish trio of Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco to win the trophy.
2011: The best of Spain
For the second year in a row, the Monte-Carlo final was contested by the two best Spaniards in the FedEx ATP ranking. Nadal, who survived a three-set semi-final against Andy Murray, met in form world number 6 Ferrer for the title.
Ferrer had lost just 17 games to reach his second Masters 1000 final, but Nadal beat the man who ended his non-calendar Grand Slam bid three months earlier at the Australian Open with a victory of 6-4, 7-5.
2012: End the series
After back-to-back wins over Stan Wawrinka and Gilles Simon, Nadal entered the 2012 Monte-Carlo final looking to end a seven-game losing streak against world number 1 Djokovic. Reuniting for the first time since their epic five-hour, 53-minute Australian Open final in January, Nadal passed Djokovic 6-3, 6-1 in 79 minutes to win a record-breaking eighth consecutive title. Open Era in a single TBEN event.
2016: Back in the winner’s circle
Four years after claiming his eighth title in Monte Carlo, Nadal returned to the Masters 1000 clay court opener of the year with the goal of winning his first title in eight months. The Spaniard passed Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka, 22, before rallying a set to defeat Andy Murray in the semifinals.
With the support of the French fans in the stands, his latest opponent, Gael Monfils, showed his incredible shooting ability and defended well to force Nadal into a decisive set after more than two hours. But Nadal continued to trust his base game and exhausted his opponent to clinch his ninth Monte Carlo trophy.
2017: Creator of history
After a first-round scare against Kyle Edmund, Nadal qualified for his 11th Monte-Carlo final with wins over Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman and David Goffin. For the third time, a Spanish compatriot awaited Nadal in the final. Albert Ramos-Vinolas picked up straight set wins over world No.1 Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Lucas Pouille to reach his first Masters 1000 championship game.
Like Verdasco and Ferrer before him, Ramos-Vinolas had no answer to the Mallorcan match on Court Rainier III. Nadal served confidently throughout the 76-minute encounter to win 6-1, 6-3 and move away from Guillermo Vilas with a record 50th clay court title.
2018: Dominant display
In 2018, no player won more than five games against Nadal in Monte-Carlo. The Spaniard pulled off the draw, taking victories over Aljaz Bedene, Karen Khachanov, Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov to reach his 12th final at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
In the championship match, Nadal beat Kei Nishikori four times to become the first man in the Open Era to win a single event 11 times. It was the fifth time Nadal has won the tournament without losing a set (2008-10, 2012), extending his streak of sets on clay to 36. in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open 2018.