MONTE CARLO, April 28, 2008 (AFP)
Rafael Nadal hailed his historic fourth successive Monte Carlo Masters title triumph as a "special moment" which rewarded his fighting spirit.
Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5, 7-5 in Sunday's final but had to come back from 0-4 down in the second set on his way to claiming seven of the last eight games.
It was his 24th career crown and he became the first man since New Zealander Anthony Wilding in 1914 to win four Monte Carlo titles in a row and the first in the Open era.
It was also his 22nd successive victory in the tournament and 98th win in his last 99 claycourt matches; his only loss was in the Hamburg Masters final in 2007 when Federer brought his record 81-match winning streak to a halt.
To hammer home his dominance, he then teamed up with compatriot Tommy Robredo to win the doubles as well.
"If I was going to lose the second set, I was going to lose 6-2 or something, anything but 6-0," said the champion.
"So I was determined to win every point. He was controlling the court, so I had to come inside more.
"To win this tournament for a fourth time is a special moment. I didn't play well in Indian Wells or Miami and if I was going to lose here then I was going to lose playing well."
Federer described Nadal as a 'hell of a claycourt player'.
Sunday's defeat was the world number one's third loss in a row in the final against the Spaniard and his seventh defeat in eight claycourt clashes, the deadly slow surface on which the 21-year-old Mallorcan, the triple French Open champion, is the undisputed ruler.
"He's a hell of a claycourt player," admitted world number one Federer who has now lost nine of his 15 career meetings with Nadal.
"You can't get away with just serving well because he scrambles so well and can break you at ease.
"He's also a more complete player now. He reached the final in the doubles here as well which you wouldn't have expected and he's still very young.
"Rafa plays compact and tough and the clay court is so natural for him.
"He's improving but so am I. It won't get any easier to beat him but I feel I'm right there."
Federer had his opportunities on Sunday.
He broke first in both sets and was 4-0 ahead in the second before Nadal stormed to victory.
"It's hard to imagine winning this title for four years in a row," said Nadal who collected his first trophy since winning in Stuttgart last July.
Federer, who had been just two points away from defeat in his first match against Spain's world number 137 Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, was full of praise for his opponent.
"I have to congratulate Rafa. It seems to be the same thing every year here," he said.
"He played great but I have to be happy with my tournament especially since I could have lost in the first round.
"It was a tough match. I played OK but I'm disappointed that I let him back into the match."
Federer, who was laid low by glandular fever in January and lost his Australian Open title, said he was taking positives from the match.
"I've come back strong and I'm happy where things are right now. It's been a positive week for me. I could have lost in the first round. But I've beaten some great players here and pushed Rafa today.
"I know I can beat him if I play the right way - I didn't have that feeling when I played here last year. I'm healthy and moving well.
"My attacking game didn't work today, that's where I lost too many points," added the world number one who sent down an ugly 44 unforced errors to Nadal's 20.



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