Doha, Qatar (SportsNetwork.com) - Rafael Nadal opened his 2014 campaign with a title, capturing the Qatar Open on Saturday with a three-set victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils in the final.
The top-seeded Nadal claimed a 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 win on Saturday for his 61st career title and first in Doha. He lost to Nikolay Davydenko four years ago in his lone previous visit to the title match.
Monfils, a two-time runner-up in Doha, had twice beaten Nadal at this event -- a quarterfinal win in 2009 and a semifinal triumph two years ago. He gave the world No. 1 a battle on Saturday, but still dropped to 2-9 lifetime against the Spanish superstar.
Nadal also moved into sole possession of eighth on the ATP titles list in the Open Era (1968), surpassing Andre Agassi. He entered the year off a banner 2013 campaign that featured 10 tournament wins, including the French Open and U.S. Open titles, and a return to the top of the world rankings.
Next up for the 13-time Grand Slam champion will be a visit to the Australian Open for the first time since finishing as the runner-up in 2012. He missed last year's initial major championship while recovering from knee issues and will try for his second title in Melbourne, the first coming back in 2009.
Monfils, despite a valiant effort that took nearly two hours, again came up short in a final. He fell to 4-16 all-time in title matches and hasn't won a tournament since 2011 in Stockholm.
In addition to his loss Saturday, Monfils also fell in the Doha final against Roger Federer in 2006 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2012. He's never beaten a top-10 opponent in a final, falling to 0-8 all-time.