Monte-Carlo Masters Friday Preview: Rafael Nadal Faces Andrey Rublev in the Quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Friday Preview: Rafael Nadal Faces Andrey Rublev in the Quarterfinals

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Rafael Nadal on Thursday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

Novak Djokovic’s shocking defeat to Dan Evans leaves Nadal as the top remaining seed.  Can anyone stop the King of Clay from winning this event for an astounding 12th time?  Andrey Rublev tied Djokovic for most wins on the ATP Tour last season, and he’ll try to secure his first over Nadal on Friday.

 

The other three singles quarterfinals feature seeded players against unseeded ones.  But those unseeded players are all dangerous, as each upset a top eight seed to claim their spot in the quarters.  And in doubles, three of the top four seeds are still alive, as are a veteran French team who were the champions of this event in 2016.   

Throughout the week, this preview will analyze the most prominent match of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule.  Friday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Andrey Rublev – Fourth on Court Rainier III

Their most prominent previous clash occurred during Rublev’s breakout event.  At the 2017 US Open, a 19-year-old Rublev reached his first Major quarterfinal.  However, he was promptly destroyed in that round by Nadal, earning only five games across three sets.  And Nadal has been in destroy mode thus far this week, dropping only five games across four sets.

Four years later, Rublev is a much more developed, accomplished player.  Since the start of last season, he’s 63-14, with six titles.  And while he’s not the King of Clay, he’s 12-2 on this surface during that same span.  So his rematch with Nadal should be a much more competitive affair.  But the Russian is coming off a grueling, nearly three-hour contest on Thursday evening with another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut.  And Nadal is a strong favorite just about every time he walks onto a clay court.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Fabio Fognini (15) vs. Casper Ruud – Fognini is the defending champion from 2019, and is yet to drop a set this week.  Ruud came back from 5-2 down on Wednesday, saving two match points against Carreno Busta.  The 22-year-old Norwegian is 2-0 against the Italian, which includes a victory on clay last September in Hamburg.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – This is their first meeting, and the 21-year-old Spaniard’s first time advancing this far at a Masters event.

David Goffin (11) vs. Dan Evans – The British No.1’s three victories this week represent nearly half of his career total on this surface.  Goffin took out fifth-seeded Sascha Zverev on Thursday.  Evans claimed their only previous encounter in straight sets, at last year’s ATP Cup.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (7) – Mektic and Pavic are an outstanding 26-3 on the year, with four titles.  The Frenchmen own a career Grand Slam as a team, as well as seven Masters 1000 titles.  At the Australian Open, Mektic and Pavic outlasted Herbert and Mahut in a third-set 10-point tiebreak.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Fabio Fognini and Diego Schwartzman – On Thursday, Cabal and Farah dominated two other top singles players, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz.  This is Fabio and Diego’s first event as a team since three years ago in Madrid, where they lost to Cabal and Farah in straights.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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French Open Chief: Roger Federer Would have Won Multiple French Open Titles If It Wasn’t For Nadal

Guy Forget also predicts how far the 39-year-old could go in the draw this year.

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The decision by Roger Federer to play at the French Open is the most logical step ahead of Wimbledon, according to tournament director Guy Forget.

 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match on the surface since June 2019. Last year he missed most the season due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. So far this year he has only played in one tournament which was at the Qatar Open where he reached the semi-finals.

Federer will return to the court next week at the Geneva Open in his native Switzerland. It is the only event he will play before heading to Roland Garros. An event he had only played in once out of the past five editions. Forget, who is a former top 10 player himself, believes the match play is exactly what Federer needs.

“That Roger comes to play Roland Garros seems logical to me. This will allow him to play, and especially to test himself. Clay is a surface that requires you to be precise in your movements. The better Federer is at Roland Garros, the better he will be at Wimbledon,” he told reporters earlier this week.

The Swiss Maestro has only won the French Open once in his career which was back in 2009. Although he has reached the final on four other occasions. It was at the 1999 French Open where he made his main draw debut in a major at the age of 17. Overall, 11 out of Federer’s 103 ATP titles have been won on the clay.

However, Forget believes Federer would have won many more French Open titles if it wasn’t for the formidable Rafael Nadal. A player who has won more ATP trophies on the dirt than any other player in history, including 13 at the French Open alone.

“If Rafael Nadal hadn’t existed Federer would have had at least 5 or 6 titles at Roland, I’m sure of that.” Forget commented.
“Regarding this edition, I think it can happen that he could go into the second week.” He added.

Federer has lost to Nadal in all six of their meetings at the French Open – four times in the final and twice in the semi-finals. He trails their overall head-to-head 16-24.

The French Open will get underway on May 30th.

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Nadal survives three-set marathon with Shapovalov in Rome

Rafael Nadal saved match points to edge out Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The King of Clay needed three sets and over three hours to claim the win and avoid an upset.

 

Rafael Nadal needed three hours and 27 minutes to beat the Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the Italian Open in Rome hitting 29 winners while his counterpart hit 46 unforced errors in the loss.

To everyone’s surprise it was the world number 14 who came out with the faster start earning two breakpoints in the first service game of the match with a stunning forehand winner.

He would break to take an early 1-0 lead and continued to have momentum earning another break and the Spaniard found himself staring at 3-0 defecit.

At 4-1 the world number three would get one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the Toronto native would break one more time at 5-3 on his fourth breakpoint of the game to take the first set.

Once again we saw some really strong play from the Canadian in the beginning of the second set we saw history repeat itself when the world number 14 held serve and get the early break this time with his powerful forehand.

Nadal was fighting to stay in the set and the match and managed to earn a breakpoint but it was quickly saved with a big ace from Shapovalov. The very next game the Canadian had a chance to get another break but this time the Spaniard would deny him the opportunity.

After the world number three held serve he went on the attack looking to go back on serve and after three chances would get the break back. He would end up winning five games in a row and would take the second set to send it to a decider.

The third set remained on serve until 2-1 when the Canadian had a chance to break and he would take to jump out to a 3-1 lead. The break didn’t hold as Nadal came storming back the very next game breaking the world number 14 to love and equaling the set at 3-3.

The set and the match would ultimately be decided by a tiebreaker and in that breaker is when the Spaniard would take over winning it 7-3 to book his spot in the quarterfinals.

He will next face either Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.

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Novak Djokovic Moving Into A ‘Good Trajectory’ After Reaching Rome Quarter-Finals

Novak Djokovic admitted that he is on a good trajectory after reaching the last eight in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has said that he is on a ‘good trajectory’ after moving into the Rome Quarter-Finals.

 

The world number one moved into the last eight in the Italian capital with a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Despite being broken in the first game, Djokovic rallied back to break on five occasions as he cruised past the Erratic Spaniard.

After 1 hour and 11 minutes, Djokovic’s overall game was too much for Davidovich Fokina as the Serb progressed to his 15th quarter-final in Rome.

After the match in his on-court interview the top seed admitted he is on a good trajectory as he builds momentum towards Roland Garros, “I thought I played well,” Djokovic told the ATP website.

“He started well and broke my serve in the first game. I made some errors, but I managed to break back right away and establish the control and consistency on the court. I think from the back of the court I was just a bit more solid than him.

“He made some unforced errors and double faults in key moments, which obviously helped me get that necessary break forward. I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against Fritz a few days ago. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

The real test for Djokovic will come tomorrow when he faces top 10 opposition in the last eight.

It will either be Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas or Madrid finalist and home favourite Matteo Berrettini next up for the world number one.

Djokovic was well aware of the form either of his possible opponents are in heading into tomorrow’s showdown, “My next match will be against a Top 10 player, so it is going to be a battle,” Djokovic explained.

“Both of these guys are in great form. Tsitsipas won Monte-Carlo and Berrettini is just coming off the final in Madrid. I am obviously going to do my best to win that match, whoever I play against.”

In the other result in Rome today, Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Aslan Karatsev.

The American hit 18 aces as he will now face Felix Auger-Aliassime or Federico Delbonis on Friday.

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