Rafael Nadal claimed another Monte Carlo Masters title on Sunday as his preparations for the French Open heated up.
Nadal beat Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-2 in the final to secure a remarkable 11th championship in 14 years, and a third in a row.
The result is significant because Nadal will retain his status as world No 1. Roger Federer would have taken over if Nadal failed to win in Monaco.
The veteran Spaniard is perfectly poised for another French Open challenge next month, a Grand Slam that he has won 10 times.
Japan’s Nishikori, the world No 36, was a game opponent throughout a gruelling first set. He had won their most recent meeting, at the 2016 Olympics, and although he had lost their previous four matches on clay, Nishikori enjoyed threatening moments in the early stages.
Nadal eventually broke clear to take the first set, and broke Nishikori’s serve to go 2-1 ahead in the second.
As Nishikori wilted, Nadal broke again and raced to the finishing line – he has now won 36 consecutive sets on clay.
Earlier on Sunday, Bob and Mike Bryan of the USA won the doubles title by beating Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia.