MONACO: Rafael Nadal won his seventh straight Monte Carlo Masters title after beating David Ferrer 6-4, 7-5 on Sunday, capturing his first tournament since October and ending a run of three consecutive defeats in finals.
The top-ranked Spaniard chalked up his 37th straight win at the clay-court event, where he has not lost since 2003. It was his 44th career title — but first since the Japan Open — and 19th at a Masters event.
"To start the clay season like this is fantastic, but it’s more fantastic to win Monte Carlo another time," Nadal said. "This is the Masters tournament where I feel more emotion when I’m playing, because here in 2003 everything starts. I played qualifiers here, won two matches, and was for the very first time in my career top 100."
Nadal won the all-Spanish final when Ferrer sent the ball into the net following a brief exchange.
"Always special emotion for this tournament, I won seven in a row. Win seven times in a row (for) anyone, is almost impossible," Nadal said. "I was more tired than usual today."
The 24-year-old Nadal has lost two consecutive Masters finals this year to second-ranked Novak Djokovic, at the Sony Ericsson and BNP Paribas Open. He was also beaten by Roger Federer at the season-ending final of the ATP World Tour Finals in November.
"It was hard to lose, especially the Miami one, so I was a little bit more defensive today," Nadal said. "To lose three in a row is tough. So I was a little bit nervous when I had a chance to win."
Guillermo Coria of Argentina is the last player to beat Nadal at Monte Carlo, in the third round in 2003. Nadal missed the 2004 tournament through injury.
"Well, Rafa is incredible on clay. I mean, he’s everywhere at the same time," Ferrer said through a translator. "He’s the best player on clay in history."
Nadal also extended his Open era record for consecutive titles at a single tournament, having set the mark when he won for the sixth time last year.
He did not drop a set last year, but Andy Murray took one off him in Saturday’s semifinal that lasted nearly three hours. The win against Ferrer went 2 hours, 17 minutes.
"These kind of matches like yesterday, like today improves your condition, physical and mental," Nadal said.
Nadal also beat Ferrer in last year’s Rome Masters final. The 29-year-old Ferrer missed a key point in the 10th game when he fluffed a routine overhead smash that would have put Nadal 15-30 down on his own serve, and then hit a loose forehand too long on the following point.
"I was lucky a bit, mistake of the smash at 15-all, it was an important point," Nadal said. "After that David had few more mistakes, that helped me finish the match."
Ferrer, who was aiming for his third title this year and 12th overall, rued some careless errors late in the match against Nadal.
"Generally speaking I’m very happy. I’m happy with my game also," Ferrer said. "I was a bit sad about certain moments."
Nadal held and then broke Ferrer for the fourth time in the match. Ferrer saved one match point when his return clipped the net and bounced just in and out of Nadal’s reach.
But a blistering forehand gave Nadal a second chance to win, and he sealed the victory when Ferrer returned a volley into the net.
Nadal, who had conceded his opening service game in his previous two matches to Murray and Ivan Ljubicic, again started slowly, saving two points after dropping to 15-40 down.
Nadal took Ferrer’s serve in the third game, but lost his own straight after when Ferrer ended a long rally with a superb drop shot to make it 2-2.
Ferrer continued to struggle — landing only 36 percent of serves in the first set — and was broken again to trail 3-2.
He failed to take advantage of having Nadal 0-40 down in the sixth game, the defending champion holding to lead 4-2 after the players had swapped drop shots close to the net.
In the second set, Nadal broke Ferrer in third game with passing shot to lead 2-1. He was untroubled until the eighth game when Nadal’s return from behind baseline bounced out to make it 4-4 as Ferrer broke him for the second time.
Nadal won every match he played on clay last season and claimed a fifth French Open title.
"Well, he’s not a machine. He can lose," Ferrer said. "Maybe if Rafa has an injury, I will have a chance."
ATP ranking through April 18 Singles
1. Rafael Nadal, Spain, 12,870 points.
2. Novak Djokovic, Serbia, 9,640.
3. Roger Federer, Switzerland, 8,550.
4. Andy Murray, Britain, 5,905.
5. Robin Soderling, Sweden, 5,420.
6. David Ferrer, Spain, 4,840.
7. Tomas Berdych, Czech Republic, 3,900.
8. Jurgen Melzer, Austria, 2,975.
9. Gael Monfils, France, 2,600.
10. Mardy Fish, United States, 2,401.
11. Nicolas Almagro, Spain, 2,395.
12. Fernando Verdasco, Spain, 2,270.
13. Andy Roddick, United States, 2,270.
14. Mikhail Youzhny, Russia, 2,205.
15. Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland, 2,090.
16. Viktor Troicki, Serbia, 1,815.
17. Richard Gasquet, France, 1,745.
18. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France, 1,670.
19. Sam Querrey, United States, 1,520.
20. Alexandr Dolgopolov, Ukraine, 1,500.(AP)