Organisers hope Rafael Nadal will return to the ATP Doha in 2015 to defend his title.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal won the Qatar ExxonMobil Open for the first time in 2014 when he defeated Frenchman Gael Monfils in the final.
It was the first time in his career that Nadal had won an ATP World Tour title in the first week of the season.
“Every victory is important and the title today means a lot to me. It is the first time in my career that I am able to start the season with a victory. That's always important," Nadal, who has won titles in 17 different countries, said following his victory.
The top seed stormed ahead to a promising 5-0 lead over the unseeded Monfils as the Frenchman was only able to win the one game in the opening set that lasted only 23 minutes.
However, Monfils came out charging in the second set, as the tables turned and it was the Frenchman who, this time, marched to a 3-0 lead. As could be expected, the gritty World No. 1 refused to watch the set fly by so easily and Nadal quickly leveled the score at 6-6.
But Monfils overcame the challenges the top seed threw at him and managed to serve out the second set, with an ace on his third set point in the tiebreak. The match was now tied at one set all.
“Rafa put pressure on me from the first point. He was very aggressive from the first game and it was tougher for me to adjust. [In the second set] I tried to play with more power and stronger," Monfils said reflecting on the opening sets.
In the deciding set Monfils’ intensity dwindled as Nadal proved too strong. The World No. 1 broke the Frenchman’s serve in the fourth game, but in a twist of events, he then found himself trying to save three break points against him in the subsequent set. But like he does so often, Nadal found a way and consolidated his lead to 4-1.
Monfils was able to remain powerful on serve, hitting 13 aces, but it wasn’t enough to overpower the dominant Spaniard. The 13-time Grand Slam champion eventually prevailed in the final, taking the it 6-3 with the help of 43 unforced errors from the Frenchman.
“It's always tough to play against him and at the end he was a bit better than me today...I will still work hard and I will be confident the first day in Australia," Monfils said after the match ahead of the Australian Open later that month.
Nadal made his run to the final arguably a bit tougher than what Monfils did, as the top seed was pushed to three sets on two occasions. The Spaniard faced a challenging battle against Ernest Gulbis in the quarter-finals as the seventh seed raced ahead to a 3-0 lead in the second. But Rafa was eventually able to fight it out and finish it off in two sets.
"He's a player you don't want to meet because he hits every ball very hard with a very strong serve, first and second serve. Then he hits every ball very, very, very fast from the baseline, forehand/backhand, so he's a difficult player to play against," Nadal said.
Monfils, on the other hand, he did not drop a set en route to the final and also defeated the defending champion Richard Gasquet in the second round.
Nadal’s win over Monfils marks the eighth time the Spaniard has defeated him, but only the first time Nadal was able to overcome Monfils at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Monfils had defeated Nadal in the quarter-finals in 2009 and the semi-finals in 2012 respectively at the tournament in Doha.
Organisers will be hoping that Nadal returns in 2015 to defend his title.