TENNIS - MONTE CARLO

Nadal clinches fourth victory in Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal improved on the records of Nastase and Borg by winning his fourth Monte Carlo tournament in a row. Despite holding a four-game lead in the second set, first seed Roger Federer stumbled at the last hurdle for a third consecutive time.

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Rafael Nadal won an historic fourth successive Monte Carlo Masters title on Sunday as he defeated world number one Roger Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the latest thrilling instalment of their epic rivalry.

The 21-year-old triple French Open champion came back from 0-4 down in the second set to achieve his third successive final victory over Federer in the principality.

It was also his ninth win in 15 career meetings with the world's top player and his seventh in eight claycourt clashes.

The last man to win four Monte Carlo titles in a row was New Zealand's Anthony Wilding in 1914 but Nadal, who now has 24 career titles, is the first man to complete the feat in the Open era.

The two great rivals shared breaks in the first two games before the Swiss carved out three crucial break points in the seventh by twice enticing Nadal into the net and stunning his opponent with a couple of sweet volleys.

The top seed grabbed the break, and a 4-3 lead, when Nadal, off balance, could only send a lob long.

However, the 21-year-old Nadal again retrieved the break, helped by a fortunate net cord which wrong-footed the advancing Federer, to pull level at 4-4.

Nadal was now in the ascendancy and created two set points in the 12th game when Federer, who hit 20 unforced errors to 11 in the opener, unleashed a sloppy backhand.

The set was the Spaniard's after 51 minutes when he met a deep Federer volley with a sliced backhand of his own.

Federer, who had been within two points of a shock defeat in his opening match against another Spaniard, world number 137 Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, broke Nadal in the first game of the second set and backed it up with a hold to lead 2-0.

In a topsy-turvy final, the 12-time Grand Slam title winner broke again to lead 3-0, held for 4-0 but then allowed his opponent to hit back to 4-4 on the back of two breaks of his own.

Both men then held on but Federer cracked in the 12th game and handed Nadal the title with a loose backhand.

The statistics told a depressing tale for Federer in a match where he sent down 44 unforced errors to Nadal's 20.
  

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