Nadal chases ninth Monte Carlo title
Standing in the way of a ninth Monte Carlo Masters title for Rafael Nadal is Frenchman GaÎl Monfils, an opponent the Spaniard has beaten every time they've met on clay and who has a dismal 5-18 record in finals.
Nadal has waited two years to win a Masters title and four years to get his Monte Carlo crown back, so losing today would be a particularly bitter blow.
Nadal beat Andy Murray 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 yesterday to earn a shot at a record-equalling 28th Masters title - with Novak Djokovic - and a 68th overall.
"It's been a very important week for me," Nadal said. "I increased the speed of the ball and played a little bit more inside the court because Andy had control of the point too many times in the first set."
Monfils has lost the only two Masters finals he has played - both in Paris - the last of which was in 2010.
"I expect an enormous match, a huge match. I need to try to have him play badly, or walk all over him," said Monfils, who has lost 11 of 13 career matches against Nadal. "To beat him, I need to take many risks and I need to have some luck."
At least Monfils will be fresh, having eased past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 6-3 in an all-French semi-final, breaking Tsonga's serve six times in less than half the time Nadal spent turning the table on Murray.
The last French player to win here was Cedric Pioline in 2000 - who was also the last French finalist - and Monfils is even more of an outsider considering he is 0-4 against Nadal on clay.
The 29-year-olds first played each other 11 years ago and that was also at Monte Carlo - with Nadal beating Monfils in the second round - and their last meeting on clay was a quarter-final win for Nadal in Barcelona in 2011.
For Murray, meanwhile, it was a missed opportunity to become the first British player in the final in 56 years and to beat Nadal for only the second time on clay - having routed him 6-3, 6-2 in the Madrid Masters final last year.
"I missed some shots, but you have to take chances against the best players," Murray said. "If you don't do that, you're going to lose anyway."