Rafael Nadal once again showed why he is the greatest clay court player in the history of the game with a dominant run to the title at the Monte Carlo Masters, his 11th in the Principality of Monaco.

The Spaniard defeated Kei Nishikori in straight sets in the final on Sunday and won the title without dropping a set throughout the tournament. He has now won 36 straight sets since the start of the 2017 French Open, where he captured his 10th title last year.

Nadal’s win in Monte Carlo was more significant as it was his first ATP event of 2018 having struggled with a hip injury since January 2018. He withdrew from the Australian Open with the injury which subsequently saw him withdraw from the Mexican Open, the Indian Wells Masters and the Miami Open.

The 31-year-old returned to action earlier this month when Spain took on Germany in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup, he won both his singles matches to help lead his country to the semi-finals. He then won five matches — losing just 21 games in total — on his way to the title in Monaco. Nadal, meanwhile, remained humble despite achieving a feat that is unlikely to be beaten in the near future — Novak Djokovic is the next best among the players currently active with two titles.

"It is very special," Nadal said after beating Nishikori on Sunday, as quoted by the Express. "But 11 titles here, it's unbelievable, so it's something difficult to imagine.” 

“I always say the same: If I did it, somebody else can do it. But it is very difficult. 

"The history with this tournament is unique. To put another trophy in my museum, in my academy, is going to be something great.  11 is a lot, especially here in Monte Carlo,” he added.

In defending his title in Monte Carlo, Nadal ensured he remained ahead of Roger Federer as the world number one, but his task is not even close to being complete as he still has 3,680 points to defend on clay this season.

The 16-time men’s singles Grand Slam champion has to defend his titles in Barcelona and Madrid in order to remain the world number one going into the Italian Open and the French Open later next month. Nadal will begin his campaign at the Barcelona Open on Tuesday with another tough draw which sees him pitted in the same quarter as Djokovic.

The Spanish tennis icon is keen to continue his momentum and after making it clear he is not ready to switch off especially after making such a strong start to his clay court campaign, which will culminate only in June when the curtains are drawn on the French Open, where he is looking for an unprecedented 11th title.

"This week is another week that I have a tough draw in Barcelona,” Nadal added. “Today is a day to enjoy this because winning a tournament like this one not happening every day. But tomorrow I need to start being focused on the next week.” 

“It is not the moment to stop and to disconnect your mind, it’s the moment to stay focused and to keep holding that momentum that is good one after winning seven matches in a row on clay now, this year."

“That's a positive thing. The way that I won the matches is very positive. So it is the moment to keep going, and that's my goal."