Editor’s note: This story was originally published on April 13, 2020.
Since the series began in 1990, only six men have won 11 or more ATP Masters 1000 titles. One of these people, Rafael Nadal, remarkably accomplished that feat at one event.
The Spaniard has won the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters 11 times, coinciding with former world player Pete Sampras in all Masters 1000 tournaments with his dominant rule in the Principality.
Since his tournament debut as a 16-year-old in 2003, when he defeated reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa to reach the third round, Nadal has consistently produced his best tennis at the Monte Carlo Country Club. Mallorca, which has won 71 of its 76 matches at this event, won the Open-Era a record eight consecutive titles from 2005 to 2012 and three more consecutive crowns from 2016 to 2018.
ATPTour.com looks back at each of Nadal’s 11 Monte Carlo titles.
2005: Rule begins
Two years after the stunning Costa on his debut in Monte Carlo, Nadal won his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy in the Principality. After recovering from a series in the semi-final against Richard Gasquet, who beat Roger Federer, Nadal met title defender Guillermo Cori in the championship match.
Coria ended Nadal’s first appearance in Monte Carlo with a set win in 2003, but Nadal has significantly improved his game since that meeting. The Spaniard fought for a 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 victory after three hours and nine minutes to take away what is the biggest title of his career.
2006: Classic finale
After a breakthrough season in 2005, Nadal returned to Monte Carlo the following year as world number 2 and reigning champion of Roland Garros. The Spaniard passed Coria and Gaston Gaudí to record his final bout against world No. 1 Roger Federer, whom he defeated in three of their last four ATP Head2Head clashes. Nadal successfully defended his ATP tour title for the first time in a three-hour, 50-minute classic, triumphing 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (5).
2007: Hattrick over
After losing to Federer in the 2006 Wimbledon final and the Nitto ATP final semifinal, Nadal earned the opportunity to once again face the Swiss on his favorite ground in the 2007 Monte Carlo Championship. Nadal, who did not drop a set on the way to the final, continued his dominant display against Federer with a service interruption in each set to lift the trophy for the third year in a row.
2008: Completed trilogy
After winning direct sets against Top 5 players David Ferrer and Nikolai Davydenko, Nadal met Federer for the third year in a row at the Monte-Carlo Country Club with a trophy on the line.
Nadal snatched the starting set with a late break, but Federer threatened a forced decision after taking a 4-0 lead in the second set. Triple title defender Nadal retaliated, taking the title with another late service break to round off an impressive trio of final wins against his rival in the Principality. Nadal and Federer have not met in Monte Carlo since that day.
2009: New Chapter
Competing as world number 1 in Monte Carlo for the first time, Nadal advanced to his fifth consecutive final of the tournament without missing a set. In the championship match, he faced Novak Djokovic for the first time in Monte Carlo.
Djokovic has already beaten Nadal in each of the Masters 1000 tournaments in North America, but the Spaniard has won in each of their previous six matches on clay, losing one overall set. Djokovic doubled that number by forcing a deciding set in Monte Carlo, but Nadal raised his game to win his fifth title in the Principality. The match marked the beginning of a new chapter in their rivalry, the meeting of the couples on three more occasions in the tournament.
2010: Ruthless Rafa
When Nadal finishes his career, he may be considered the most dominant tournament of his career at the Rolex Monte Carlo 2010 Masters. The Spaniard competed in the 11-month trophy drought, which dates back to his victory at the 2009 BNL Internazionali. But he only lost 14 games in five matches to win his sixth consecutive crown in Monte Carlo. Nadal defeated Thiem de Bakker, Michael Berrero and Spanish trio Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco to earn the trophy.
2011: The best from Spain
For the second year in a row, the Monte-Carlo final was contested by the top two Spaniards in the FedEx ATP rankings. Nadal, who survived the three-set semifinals against Andy Murray, met the world’s third-ranked Ferrer for the title.
Ferrer missed just 17 games to reach his second Masters 1000 final, but Nadal battled a man who finished his bid for an uncontrolled Grand Slam three months earlier at the Australian Open with a 6-4, 7-5 victory.
2012: Completion of the series
After winning direct sets against Stan Wawrinka and Gilles Simon, Nadal entered the Monte Carlo finals in 2012 in an effort to break a seven-game losing streak against world number 1 Djokovic. Coming together for the first time since their epic five-hour, 53-minute Australian Open final that January, Nadal went past Djokovic 6-3, 6-1 in 79 minutes to lift a record eighth consecutive Open Era title in an ATP Tour.
2016: Back to the circle of winners
Four years after picking up his eighth title in Monte-Carlo, Nadal returned to the inaugural Masters 1000 tournament of the year with the goal of lifting his first title in eight months. The Spaniard passed by 22-year-old Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka before gathering to beat Andy Murray in the semi-finals.
With the support of French fans in the stands, his final opponent, Gael Monfils, showed his incredible shooting ability and defended well, forcing Nadal into the deciding set after more than two hours. But Nadal continued to believe in his basic game and carried the opponent to win his ninth Monte-Carlo trophy.
2017: Creator of history
After a terrified first round against Kyle Edmund, Nadal advanced to his 11th Monte-Carlo final with victories against Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman and David Goffin. For the third time, Nadal was awaited in the final by a fellow Spaniard. Albert Ramos-Vinolas secured three sets of wins against world No. 1 Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Lucas Pouille to reach his first match in the Masters 1000 Championship.
Like Verdasco and Ferrero before him, Ramos-Vinolas had no answer to Mallorca’s game on Rainier III. Nadal served with confidence during the 76-minute match to win 6-1, 6-3 and moved away from Guillermo Villas with a record 50th ground title at the tour level.
2018: Dominant view
In 2018, no player won more than five games against Nadal in Monte Carlo. The Spaniard slipped through the draw, claiming they beat Aljaz Bedene, Karen Khachanov, Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov to reach their 12th final at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
In the championship game, Nadal broke Kei Nishikori on four occasions and became the first man in the Open Era to win 11 times in one event. It was the fifth time that Nadal had won the tournament without dropping a set (2008 – ’10, ’12), which extended his string of best sets on clay to 36. Nadal’s string of sets reached 50, before Thiem beat the Spaniard in the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open 2018.