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Nadal Wins Seventh Title Of Year

Tokyo, Japan

Nadal, Monfils© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal beat Gael Monfils for the seventh time in eight meetings.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal won his seventh tour-level title of the season, and the 43rd of his career, Sunday as he defeated Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-5 in the final of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

The Spaniard improved to a 7-1 record in finals this season, with his only defeat coming in Doha (l. to Davydenko) in January. He completed a clean sweep of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournaments in Monte-Carlo, Rome and Madrid, before winning three successive majors at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.

"Every tournament is very important; it is nice to win another big title like this one," said Nadal. "I won a lot this year but I have to appreciate how difficult it is and how much hard work you have to do. I improved a lot my serve and it is a big thing on a surface as quick as here in Tokyo."

Nadal dropped only one set during his debut appearance at the ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tennis tournament in Tokyo; he was forced to save two match points in a third-set tie-break against Viktor Troicki in the semi-finals. The Mallorcan is the fourth player this year to win an ATP World Tour title having saved a match point at some stage during the tournament, following Nikolay Davydenko (Doha), John Isner (Auckland) and Sam Querrey (Belgrade, Los Angeles).

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The 24-year-old Nadal, who has already secured his place at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, earned 500 South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking points and $261,500 in prize money.

In his eighth meeting with Monfils, Nadal recorded his seventh victory over the Frenchman. The top seed raced to a one-set lead, breaking serve in the second and sixth games. Monfils was stronger on serve in the second set, hitting seven aces as he kept Nadal at bay, but the Spaniard was able to convert his only break point in the 11th game and served out victory in 77 minutes.

Monfils suffered a heavy fall in the first set and appeared to have done some damage to his ankle. Afterwards, though, he assured media it had no bearing on the result. “The fall I had in the first set only affected me for a little while, it had no impact on the result.”

"Gael is a great player; I played very well today and that's why I won," said Nadal. "I wasn't really tired after the semi-final [against Troicki]. [Gael] beat me before in Doha in 2009 and we had other tough matches."

Nadal improved his ATP World Tour-best match record to 66-8 (35-7 on hard court) this season. The left-hander was playing in his second tournament since victory at the US Open, where he became the seventh man in the history of the sport to complete a career Grand Slam. Last week he reached the semi-finals in Bangkok (l. to Garcia-Lopez).

World No. 15 Monfils was contesting his 11th ATP World Tour final and dropped to a 2-9 record. The right-hander also finished runner-up in Stuttgart (l. to Montanes) in July and was looking to win his first title since Metz (d. Kohlschreiber) in September 2009.

Like Nadal, the Paris native had also saved a match point to reach the final. He was on the brink of defeat against No. 2 seed Andy Roddick in the third-set tie-break of their quarter-final clash, before fighting back to claim victory and end a run of eight consecutive defeats to Top 10 players.

"It was a bit tough for me to adjust my game after they opened the roof for the final, having played indoors yesterday and practised indoors this morning," said Monfils. "Rafa is a more difficult opponent if we play outdoors. It was good for my confidence to reach the final. I am also OK physically now so it has been a good week."

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