Rafael Nadal started the 2014 ATP Tour season by breaking yet another record in Doha, albeit on this occasion a purely personal one: winning the title at the first tournament contested in a calendar year. "Every victory is important and the title today means a lot to me. It is the first time in my career that I am able to start the season with a victory. That's always important," said the world number one after defeating France's Gaël Monfils 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 at the Qatar Open.
Having received further treatment to his problematic knee during the Tour's brief hiatus, Nadal had sought to keep his expectations in check going into the first week of the 2014 season. Indeed, the Spaniard was taken to three sets by Tobias Kamke (74) in the last 16 and again by qualifier Peter Gojowczyk (162) in the semifinals. However, his usual mix of thunderous ground strokes and ball-retrieval prowess proved too much for all-comers, including Monfils, who didn't drop a set en route to the final. Currently ranked 31, the Frenchman is a top-10 quality player who has also suffered from lengthy injury layoffs. Monfils has beaten Nadal twice during his career, both times at the Doha tournament.
The ATP Tour now moves to Australia and New Zealand. David Ferrer will be top seed at the Auckland Open, defending his title for a fourth time after beating Phillip Kohlschreiber last year.
Nadal will take a rest week before the start of the Australian Open on January 13, which he missed last season due to injury.