Rafael Nadal won his fourth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters championship yesterday, defeating top-ranked Roger Federer 7-5, 7-5 for his first title of the year and 24th of his career. The win improved Nadal’s clay-court record over Federer to 7-1, including the past three Monte Carlo finals, and was the Spaniard’s 98th victory in his last 99 matches on clay. Nadal’s defeat to Federer in the 2007 Hamburg final is the only hiccup in this remarkable streak. “Winning here four times is unimaginable,” said Nadal, playing on clay for the first time this year. “Roger played a great match. We always have good finals.” Federer, who won at Estoril last week, ending a four tournament title drought spanning 4 1/2 months, squandered commanding leads in each set, breaking the second-ranked Nadal to lead 4-3 in the first and racing to a 4-0 lead in the second. But, it was not to be. “Disappointing second set,” Federer said. “After playing the right way against him and then letting him back into the match, it was disappointing. Maybe I didn’t play my best.” True, indeed. Federer relied too much on his forehand, missed routine volleys at the net and committed 44 unforced errors. “He deserves to win,” said Federer on Sunday. “I’m pushing Rafa today, having the feeling I can beat him if I play the right way. And I think that’s the feeling I didn’t have after (Monte Carlo) last year.” Nadal, a three-time French Open champion, is now 19-1 in clay-court finals, while Federer dropped to 7-8 on his least favorite surface. Federer has never won the French Open. Nadal now leads Federer 9-6 in career matches, but still believes the Swiss Maestro, who has struggled so far this year, remains the best. “I think he doesn’t get enough credit,” Nadal said. “It’s impossible to be at 100 percent all of your career, he is still No. 1, the best in the world.” That may be true. However, on the slow stuff, no way. Nadal is the Clay Master.