As the prestigious Monegasque tournament was due to be held this week, let’s take a look back at five players from the Open Era who made their mark on the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
How could we not mention this player? If it were possible to pick one player who has had some of the most memorable moments at this tournament, Nadal would be the choice. With 11 titles under his belt, eight of which happened in consecutive years between 2005 and 2012, he is the master of the Country Club.
His left-hand stroke has visited these courts multiple times, a tournament that this inexhaustible player holds in high esteem. A twelve-time winner of the French Open and an eleven-time winner of the Barcelona tournament, Nadal has won the most Masters 1000 events here in Monaco. This year, the current world No. 2 seemed to be on the fast track to a twelfth title in the Principality once again.
It’s one of the most extraordinary comeback stories going but also one of the shortest. In 1983 the Swedish legend, three-time winner of the Monte-Carlo Masters (in 1977, 1979 and 1980) decided to retire early, age 26.
After a sudden lack of motivation, Björn Borg chose Monte-Carlo to bid farewell to the sport – before returning seven years later, in 1991, to the same court where he had said goodbye. With his famous wooden Donnay racket, he stood once more on the central clay court facing Spanish player Jordi Arrese. Although beaten after two small sets, the nostalgic public was able to watch their idol once more.
Considered the best Argentinian tennis player of all time, the Buenos Aires native could have won more titles if he had not crossed rackets so many times with Bjorn Borg. He won his first title at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 1976, Vilas had to wait until 1981 and 1982 to earn two more crowning titles in Monaco.
Borg, for want of a better expression, wiped the floor with Vilas in 1980 final, just two years after the Argentinian played a match dominated by Roland-Garros. As the first Argentinian to win a Grand Slam tournament, the player, with a penchant for hitting heavy topspin on groundstrokes, made history in Monte-Carlo, being a pioneer of the media explosion of tennis in the 1970s.
“When I was living in Monaco, Prince Albert regularly asked me to play bowls with him late at night down the coast,” confided the Romanian legend in his autobiography. “We were very good friends. I used to call him Albert or Colonel Bébert, as he often spoke with a slight stutter.”
With a deep love for the Principality, Ilie Nastase was known as “Nasty”, leaving his mark on Monaco’s courts. Winner of three consecutive editions of the tournament, including a final against Björn Borg, Nastase was the first professional sportsman to sign a contract with Nike in 1972.
April 1995. A date that is etched in the minds of many, the sun beating down and the clay heating up. Winner of the 1992 tournament, Thomas Muster has won 41 consecutive titles on the court in Monaco and is aiming for a second title. Opposite him is Boris Becker, on the way to his first title at this event. The former coach of Novak Djokovic dominated at the beginning, winning the first two sets.
At the end of an incredible final, one of the most impressive in the history of the Masters, the “Musterminator” took the game back to win the following three sets and a second crown in Monaco. All despite a severe knee injury which occurred in 1989. Almost miraculously, the Austrian finally put his name on the tournament’s honours list a third time the following year against Spain’s Albert Costa.