He may have had to wait four years but Rafael Nadal is finally on cloud nine in Monte Carlo.
The Spaniard matched his Roland Garros haul to claim a ninth title in Monaco. He did it by wearing down a stubborn Gael Monfils over two punishing sets before steamrollering his opponent in the decider to win 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 in two hours and 46 minutes.
With victory, Nadal -- who won eight consecutive Monte Carlo crowns between 2005 and 2012 -- is back in the Masters winner's circle, equalling Novak Djokovic's record of 28th Masters titles. Perhaps the 14-time Grand Slam winner's best days are not behind him, after all.
"This has been one of the most special places in my career," Nadal said on court after his win. "It's just a pleasure to be back here in a final playing in front of you at this amazing club.
"It has been a very special week for me, winning here in Monte Carlo. What really makes it even more special is the fantastic crowd. Many thanks to everybody here."
Since his last Masters triumph at Madrid in 2014, Nadal has struggled for form and saw his ranking plummet to 10th last year -- his lowest since he was a teenager in August 2005.
This victory will have tasted sweet for the world No.5, and will send out a warning that the King of Clay may be back just in time for the French Open, having racked up his 48th title on the surface.
He had to work mightily hard for it. Monfils was seeking his first Masters title and fought with every sinew to the delight of a rapturous partisan crowd in Monaco.
Monfils, the first double digit seed at 13 to reach the Monte Carlo final since Nadal (11) won it in 2005, has always been the great entertainer but has not had to success to back up his ability.
However, the quality of the Frenchman's ball striking was exquisite as he took the match to Nadal in a first set that lasted 75 minutes.
Monfils refused to lie down, breaking back twice to level at 5-5. He could not repeat the trick a third time, however. Monfils was taking so much energy out of his own legs that it was playing into Nadal's hands. He eventually double faulted to hand Nadal the opener on his fifth set point.
If it appeared Nadal had worn his opponent down for good, Monfils was having none of it.
He showed he had plenty in reserve, breaking twice to lead the second set only to be pegged back by Nadal. It was third time lucky for Monfils, though, as he finally held to take the match into a decider after two hours and 18 minutes, claiming his first set on clay against the Spaniard.
However, the Frenchman's intensity appeared to finally drop off, his footwork become a little heavier. Nadal was ready and waiting to pounce.
Monfils' serve deserted him, with two double faults handing the world No.5 an early break. Nadal never looked back, racing through the set to hand Monfils a bagel. In the end, it was a brutal reminder of just how far Monfils has to go to match the level of the likes of Nadal.