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Rafa Reigns In Monte Carlo As History Beckons

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April 24, 2017

It used to be this easy for Rafael Nadal. But then it became so difficult that you wondered whether he would ever return to his usual, dominant best.

As Nadal took just 66 minutes to see off his compatriot, Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3, there was barely a hint of the painful struggle Rafa has experienced in recent years, or the monumental effort it took just to look anything like his former self.

The clay-court prince is imperious once more. All the pugnacious brilliance is coming naturally to him  again. And Nadal is looking more than capable of adding a tenth French Open title to his tenth in Monaco.

He could reach double figures for Barcelona too, in the interim. It should be a fascinating European spring for fans of the spirited Spaniard.

Sure, Roger Federer’s wise decision to give the clay a miss has made life easier for Nadal. But could the Fed have downed Rafa on the Nadal’s favourite surface? Possibly not, on this form.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, mere bit-part players in Monaco, will have to play a lot better at Roland Garros if they want to eclipse the resurgent Nadal in a few weeks’ time.

But for now Rafa is just enjoying the moment, as he should after winning his first title in a year. Nadal said: ‘Winning ten titles here, I don’t know how to explain the feeling. I played a little better each day.

‘The court was so heavy, but I was serving very well, my backhand was very good, the forehand a little bit better every day. It was a very solid tournament.’

The sensation will be particularly sweet for Nadal, who had to play bridesmaid to Federer in three finals earlier this year. That’s not a role he has often settled for on clay, where he has won an incredible 50 titles from 58 finals.

And now Rafa has seventy titles in all, and could be set to eclipse the great John McEnroe’s career total of 77.

How lucky we are, with Wimbledon 2017 approaching, that we can anticipate Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer at their very best. How unlikely that seemed, even nine months ago.

This is the year to savour, the bonus year in a golden era. Pleasures are never greater in life than when they are unexpected.

We had no right to expect more of this magnificence. Yet here we are, just weeks away from Wimbledon, and we just can’t wait.

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