Monte Carlo, Apr 28: Rafael Nadal became the first player in the Open era to win four consecutive Monte Carlo Masters titles when he beat world number one Roger Federer in the final for the third year in a row on Sunday.
The second seeded Spaniard has won his last 22 matches in the principality and has already shown he is the hot favourite to win next month's French Open for the fourth year in succession.
Before him, only New Zealand's Anthony Wilding had won four straight titles in Monte Carlo, back in 1914.
The 21-year-old Nadal improved his personal record against Federer to 9-6 -- 7-1 on clay -- and is undefeated on the Monte Carlo clay since a third-round defeat by Argentine Guillermo Coria in 2003.
Following an early exchange of breaks, Federer stole Nadal's serve in the seventh game, only for the Spaniard to break straight back with a crosscourt forehand winner.
The Majorcan put all his energy into the 12th game and claimed the set by retrieving a nonchalant volley from Federer.
The Swiss 12-times Grand Slam winner, who was inefficient on second serve, appeared too timid to trouble Nadal. But he came into the second set all guns blazing, attacking the net and managing to hold serve after breaking in the first game.
The Swiss made his point clearer by breaking to love in the third and by the end of the fourth game had allowed his opponent only four points.
However, Nadal did not give up and as Federer's level of play nosedived he won the next five games. The Swiss still had some pride left to level at 5-5.
But Nadal, his teeth firmly in his prey, wrapped it up after one hour and 43 minutes when Federer sent a backhand long, his 44th unforced error.