World No. 1 Rafael Nadal won his first title of 2014 by defeating France’s Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. This is Rafa’s first title in his sixth singles appearance at the tournament. With this win, Rafa ushers in his 663rd career win, surpassing the tie he set with Michael Chang yesterday, and also surpasses Andre Agassi’s ATP titles record (whom he was tied with until today) to win his 61st ATP title. This is also the first time that Rafa has won a title before going into the Australian Open.
Given the ease in which Monfils slid his way into the final, and his winning record against Rafa in Doha (which in itself isn’t necessarily a useful statistic or predictor of current performance), the match was much anticipated and promised to be unpredictable. It lived up to expectations. The first set saw Rafa utterly dominating the court and taking just 23 minutes to end at 6-1. The second set started out with Monfils breaking to be up 3-0 before Rafa scored. Rafa broke to even the set, before Monfils took it in the tiebreaker at 7-6(5). The third set saw Rafa gain momentum once again, ending at 6-2. Rafa heads to Melbourne next, where he will attempt his second Australian Open championship victory.
Heartiest congratulations, Rafa! All our best wishes are with you for a season more successful than your last! Vamos!
Photos: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah, AP/Osama Faisal, EFE/EPA/Ali Haider, AFP Marwan Naamani, ar.beinsports.net, QTF/Paul Zimmer