Montanes knocks off Monfils for Nice title

Albert Montanes dominated early and captured the Nice Open title with a straight-set win over French crowd favorite Gael Monfils.

Montanes won the first seven games of the match and finished off a 6-0, 7-6 (7-3) triumph for his sixth career ATP World Tour title and first since July 2010, when he also beat Monfils in the Stuttgart final.

Monfils, who fell to 4-14 all-time in title matches, struggled from the start. After Montanes won the first four games, rain briefly interrupted the match, but it didn't affect the Spaniard, who went on to win the final two games in a 28-minute first set.

Montanes broke serve for a 3-1 lead in the second set, but Monfils did not go quietly. He broke back in the seventh game and eventually forced a tiebreak, which Montanes quickly won to improve to 4-1 lifetime against the Frenchman.

"I knew I could defeat Gael and today I was very solid the entire match, hitting very deep and playing well in the crucial points," said Montanes.

Monfils, who battled a right knee injury last year and missed the last three Grand Slam events in 2012, hasn't won a tournament since October 2011 in Stockholm.

The 26-year-old Monfils, a top-10 player in 2011, heads to the French Open next week with some momentum. He had failed to advance past the second round in any of his seven events since January until this week and had fallen to No. 109 in the world.

"I tried my best today, but I faced a better player than me and I want to congratulate him for his title," said Monfils. "I tried different things, but it didn't work. He was just better than me. I played a lot of matches in the past two weeks and I felt maybe a bit tired physically and mentally."

A tough first-round opponent in fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych awaits Monfils at Roland Garros, where he has had success. He had his best-ever Grand Slam finish at the 2008 French with a run to the semifinals and twice after reached the quarterfinals.

Montanes, who also beat Monfils in the first round at Monte Carlo earlier this spring, picked up a first prize of $95,000 Saturday. He was a first-round loser in the French Open last year after reaching the fourth round in 2011 and will meet Steve Johnson in the first round next week.