On this day: Rafael Nadal topples Juan Monaco to pass Pete Sampras

Making an incredible return in 2013 after winning ten ATP titles and becoming world no. 1 again, Rafael Nadal stayed at the top of the men’s game in the first half of 2014. Rafa won Roland Garros to secure the tenth consecutive season with at least one Major crown, catching Pete Sampras’ number of Majors and reducing the deficit to Roger Federer. Instead of that, the Spaniard experienced a right wrist injury that kept him away from the court after that shocking Wimbledon loss to Nick Kyrgios. Rafa stayed sidelined until Beijing in September and didn’t play well in the last couple of tournaments, skipping the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals and undergoing surgery on November 3. Michael Berrer stunned Rafa in the first round in Doha at the beginning of 2015, with the Spaniard losing the Australian Open quarter-final to Tomas Berdych and the Rio de Janeiro semi-final to Fabio Fognini.

Moving to Buenos Aires next week, Rafa finally found the form against four lower-ranked Argentines (no rivals from the top-55) to lift the first ATP trophy since Roland Garros last June and his 46th ATP title on clay. World no. 146 Facundo Arguello played well in the opener before Nadal shifted into a higher gear and grabbed a 6-4, 6-0 triumph in 65 minutes, delivering five breaks to move safely into the quarters where he took down Federico Delbonis 6-1, 6-1 in 63 minutes. There, Carlos Berlocq kept Nadal on the court for almost two hours before the Spaniard prevailed 7-6, 6-2, bouncing back from 6-1 down in the tie break and dominating set number two to secure the place in the final.

Rafael Nadal defeated Juan Monaco to claim Buenos Aires 2015 crown.

Rafa took down his great friend and the doubles partner Juan Monaco 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 27 minutes, claiming the first title since last June and getting back on the winning way before losing ground again in the upcoming events.

Hitting less than ten winners and almost 30 unforced errors, Monaco stayed in touch in the opening nine games before losing steam. The Argentine couldn’t endure exchanges with Nadal, who never faced a break point and played better and better as the match progressed to bring it home and celebrate a much-needed title. Rafa had the advantage in the shortest and most advanced exchanges, firing 18 winners and 15 unforced errors to control the pace and bring the victory home in rainy conditions. The Argentine saved a break chance in the first game and delivered two great holds after that in front of his great compatriot Guillermo Vilas to stay 3-2 in front.

That all changed at 3-3 when Monaco netted a backhand, losing serve and allowing Nadal to close the opener with a hold at 15 following another backhand error from the home player. Juan played a terrible drop shot to lose serve in the second set’s first game, sending another backhand long to fall 3-0 behind and drift further away from the finishing line. Nadal held at 15 in game six and sealed the deal with a break at 15 a few minutes later, securing at least one title for the 12th consecutive season and passing Pete Sampras with his 65th title at 28. 

Tennis – On March 1, 2015, Rafa defeated his great friend in the Buenos Aires final after playing doubles with him that week

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