Nadal has equalled Federer's tally of 14 Masters Series titles
Rafael Nadal continued his magnificent run in Monte Carlo with a fifth successive title as he beat Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-6 6-1 in Sunday's final.
The world number one was pushed hard as Djokovic dominated the second set and had break points early in the third, before Nadal battled back to win.
At just 22, Nadal has now equalled Roger Federer's mark of 14 tournament wins in the elite Masters 1000 Series.
Only Andre Agassi has won more, with 17 Masters titles.
"If I had to choose one Masters Series before the start of the season to win, Monte Carlo would be in the first position," said Nadal.
He got an incredible drop shot and he made a winner. The angle was just incredible. I think that's what kind of lifted him up
"The city, the atmosphere, everything is special, the history of the tournament. Yeah, this tournament is always special for me."
Nadal becomes the first man to win Monte Carlo five times in a row, but he faced one of his toughest examinations on a clay court in recent years.
"I played a very good match, actually one of the best I have played against him on this surface," said Djokovic afterwards.
"It's really unfortunate that in certain moments I didn't play the way I was supposed to play, with a little bit more patience."
With only four wins in 15 previous matches against Nadal - and none in six clay-court encounters - Djokovic was under relatively little pressure for such a big final.
And after recovering from dropping serve in the opening game, the 21-year-old Serb levelled immediately and began to mix his game up well, sealing a second break with a drop shot.
In this tournament I didn't serve very well. Especially my second serve, sometimes it was 120 kph, so that's a disaster
Nadal was making more errors than usual but a couple of trademark forehands helped him break to love in game five and from there he reeled off another four straight games to take the set.
Djokovic required the trainer for a back problem late in the set and the signs were not good going into the second, but the third seed came roaring back into contention.
One of the rallies of the year saw Djokovic break serve in the opening game, thanks to a lob volley followed by a smash, and he fended off two break points to move 3-1 clear before getting the double-break when Nadal went long with a forehand in game five.
Djokovic was increasingly happy to come to the net and looked in total command when he sealed the set - the first Nadal had lost in Monte Carlo for three years - with two successive aces.
The beginning of the deciding set was a tense, closely-fought and dramatic affair, with the first three games all going to deuce and producing a hatful of break points for both men.
There was another contender for rally of the season in game one, as Nadal withstood huge pressure to save a break point by chasing down a drop shot and producing an amazing angled winner.
"He got an incredible drop shot and he made a winner," Djokovic said afterwards. "The angle was just incredible. I think that's what kind of lifted him up."
Three break points went begging for Djokovic and in the following, equally epic game, the Serb let three game points slip away with errors and a double-fault.
Nadal finally earned his chance with a fantastic wrong-footing backhand pass down the line, and Djokovic obliged with a missed forehand on break point.
The chances kept coming and Djokovic converted his third break point in the following game before the Serb finally cracked in game four, being broken to love to trail 3-1.
Nadal looked much the stronger now, quickly holding to love, and a tired-looking Djokovic double-faulted on break point in game six as the set ran away from him.
After two hours and 43 minutes, Djokovic netted a forehand on match point and Nadal fell backwards onto the red dirt in celebration of his 27th straight match win in Monte Carlo.
But the world number one found room for improvement afterwards, saying: "The serve is really important because I was serving better in the beginning of the season.
"In this tournament I didn't serve very well. Especially my second serve, sometimes it was 120 kph, so that's a disaster.
"I have to play more, I have to serve better next week. I am going to have two days to work on this."
Nadal will go for a fifth successive title in Barcelona next week before the world's best head to the Rome Masters.