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World No. 1 Rafael Nadal won the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in 2014 when he defeated Frenchman Gael Monfils in the final. It was the first time in his career that Nadal had won an ATP World Tour title in the first week of the season.
“Every victory is important and the title today means a lot to me. It is the first time in my career that I am able to start the season with a victory. That's always important," Nadal, who has won titles in 17 different countries, said following his victory.
The top seed stormed ahead to a promising 5-0 lead over the unseeded Monfils, as the Frenchman was only able to catch the single game in the opening set that lasted only 23 minutes.
Rafael Nadal (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Monfils redeemed himself in the second set, as the tables turned and it was the Frenchman who marched to a 3-0 lead. But in typical fashion, the gritty World No. 1 refused to let the set slide so easily and equaled the score at 6-6 pushing Monfils to a tiebreaker.
Monfils managed to serve out the second set, with an ace on his third set point in the tiebreak and took the match to a decider.
“Rafa put pressure on me from the first point. He was very aggressive from the first game and it was tougher for me to adjust. [In the second set] I tried to play with more power and stronger," Monfils said reflecting on the opening sets.
But Monfils' intensity dwindled in the final set as Nadal proved too strong and broke the 27-year-old’s serve in the fourth game. However, the top seed was not on the home run just yet, as he was forced to face three break points in the subsequent game. But Nadal saved them all and consolidated his lead to 4-2.Gael Monfils (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Despite Monfil’s incredible power on serve, serving 13 aces for the match, Nadal was able to handle the pressure as he adjusted his return position and stood further back on the baseline. The 13-time Grand Slam champion eventually prevailed, taking the deciding set 6-3 with the help of 43 unforced errors from the Frenchman.
“It's always tough to play against him and at the end he was a bit better than me today...I will still work hard and I will be confident the first day in Australia," Monfils said after the match ahead of the Australian Open later that month.
Reaching the final was no easy feat for Nadal who fought hard overcoming Ernest Gulbis in the quarter-finals, despite trailing 0-3 in the second set. He also had a tough victory over Peter Gojowczyk in the semi-finals. Nadal fought from a set down against the 24-year-old to clinch victory in three sets 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 and set up the clash against Monfils in the final.
Monfil’s enjoyed a more successful pathway to the final, as he did not drop a set and defeated defending champion Richard Gasquet en route.
Nadal’s win over Monfils marks the first time the Spaniard has defeated Monfils in three attempts at the tournament in Doha after losing to him the quarter-finals in 2009 and the semis in 2012 respectively.
Organisers will be hoping both Nadal and Monfils return to the tournament in 2015.