Against the backdrop of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, Rafael Nadal made more history Sunday -- with the promise of even more as spring unfolds.
Nadal dusted No. 15 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3 to win the title at Monte Carlo and produce some big, round numbers.
This was his:
• Record 10th Monte Carlo title
• Record 50th clay title
• 70th career title
Some context? With Rafa, it's an elusive goal, because the things he's doing on the dirt are unprecedented. "King of Clay," the moniker they usually roll out at times like this, almost doesn't do what he's doing enough justice.
Maybe we should go with the formal title of Albert the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, the man who presented Rafa the trophy: His Serene Highness.
Those 50 clay-court titles are a new record, breaking his tie that went back to last year's win at Barcelona, with Guillermo Vilas.
Rafa has now played 404 matches on clay -- and won 370 of them. That's a scintillating winning percentage of .916. He's 63-4 (.940) in Monte Carlo. Before Sunday, no man in the Open era had ever won the same ATP event 10 times. And now he has a chance to do it three times in seven weeks.
He'll try for No. 10 this week in Barcelona and, later, at the French Open in Paris.
"Is really unbelievable, no?" Nadal said to the press afterward. "Win 10 times in such an important event like Monte Carlo is something difficult to describe the feeling. Yeah, is a little bit of luck; lot of things together should happen to make this 10th title in an event like Monte Carlo.
"I feel lucky to keep playing tennis, being healthy all those years, to compete in one of the most beautiful events of the year, without a doubt. Very happy to win another one. For me is a very important day in my career."
Nadal was typically clinical against Ramos-Vinolas, who had previously never reached an ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal. Nadal served well and did not face a break point, and he managed to break his fellow Spaniard four times in eight service games.
The match was over in 76 minutes.
"Nothing [I could] do," Ramos-Vinolas conceded. "I think he was a little bit better in everything." Coming in, Rafa was the Monte Carlo winner from 2005-12 and 2016, so he's won the tournament 10 times in only 13 years. This was Nadal's 29th ATP Masters 1000 title, putting him only one behind Djokovic, who is the all-time leader.
April continues to be Nadal's best month in terms of titles; 18 of his 70 have come in that month, with 12 in May and 11 in June.
In Barcelona, where he is also the defending champion, the center court will be named in honor of Nadal. He'll be joined in the field by Murray, who accepted a late wild card. They wouldn't meet until the final.
In recent years, Nadal has worked hard to win Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and then eased off the throttle a bit in Madrid and Rome, possibly a concession to his aging body that will turn 31 at this year's French Open. After winning back-to-back titles in Madrid (2013-14) and Rome (2012-13), Rafa has reached two quarterfinals, a semifinal and a final.
Nadal has always been a creature of habit. Playing -- and winning -- a lot of matches has helped him build confidence and maintain a successful rhythm. He would be wise to conserve his energy in Madrid and Rome if he wants to win in Paris.
Based on his fairly flawless performance in Monte Carlo, Nadal should be the overwhelming favorite to win the French Open. He won nine titles in 10 years, reached the quarters in 2015, and withdrew last year before his third-round match with a wrist injury.
"The next step is not Roland Garros," Nadal said. "The next step is Barcelona. That's the real thing. Today is a good start of the clay court season.
"But I never take Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Madrid like a preparation for one tournament. These tournaments are so important for [themselves]. Then Roland Garros arrives later. Is difficult to think about Roland Garros now."
But when he was asked to contemplate what 10 titles at Roland Garros would mean, Nadal smiled.
"I want it," he said.