|Nadal celebrates winning seven straight Monte Carlo titles in a row [GALLO/GETTY]
Rafael Nadal swept to an incredible seventh straight title at the Monte Carlo Masters, beating fourth-seed fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-4, 7-5 on Sunday.
Nadal has not lost at Monte Carlo since 2003 where he lost his only match in his debut year as a 16-year-old.
Sunday's win marked his 37th straight win at the clay-court event and the title is the 44th of his career and 19th at a Masters event.
"It would have been impossible to imagine a few years ago winning seven titles here," Nadal said after a victory in 2 hours 16 minutes, his 12th of 16 against his good friend.
"I'm a lucky guy to have done this by age 24. Thanks so much to the life, I'm really enjoying everything."
Nadal had lost his three previous career finals, twice to second-ranked Novak Djokovic, and once to third-ranked Roger Federer. It was the 24-year-old's first title since winning the Japan Open last October.
The Spaniard was in dominant form, breaking first in the third game when his compatriot netted but Ferrer struck back immediately with his own break of serve thanks to an exquisite drop shot in the final of the first clay court event of the European season.
In the second set, Nadal broke Ferrer in third game with passing shot to lead 2-1. He was untroubled until the eighth game when Nadal's return from behind baseline bounced out to make it 4-4 as Ferrer broke him for the second time.
"This was a very important win for me," said the somewhat disbelieving champion, who has once again embarked on the road to Roland Garros next month in the best possible way.
"I don't think about defending points from previous years, only about playing well. I just keep trying to improve every day, train humbly and improve. Winning this week was so important."
Ferrer defeated an injured Nadal in the last eight of January's Australian Open but this time the world number one, who beat Fernando Verdasco in the principality last year in another all-Spanish final, was too strong on his forehand.
Nadal won every clay court event he entered last year and few would bet against him repeating the feat this season with the defence of his French Open title due next month after trips to Barcelona and the Masters events in Madrid and Rome.
Nadal has arguably not been at his very best this week at the beachside event, and was pushed hard by Andy Murray in Saturday's semifinal, but even the odd problem with his serve or failure to kill off a point have not cost him.
Novak Djokovic beat Nadal in his previous two finals on hardcourts this year but he pulled out of this tournament with a knee injury, robbing fans of the chance to see whether the Serb could threaten the Spaniard on his favoured clay surface.
Roger Federer lost in the quarterfinals when the Swiss had seemed on a collision course towards the final with his great rival Nadal.