Monte-Carlo Masters Thursday Preview: Seeded Players Begin to Square Off in the Third Round - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Thursday Preview: Seeded Players Begin to Square Off in the Third Round

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Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

15 of the 16 second round singles matches were straight-set affairs, though that will likely change on Thursday.  10 of the world’s top 20 players are in the round of 16, with many of them now facing each other. 

 

Grigor Dimitrov is 1-13 lifetime against Rafael Nadal, but will try to earn his second career victory on his home court.  Also on Thursday, the world No.1 takes on the British No.1.  And three of the sport’s best young talents take on three of the sport’s toughest outs.  In doubles, the top three seeds will all be in action.

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.  Thursday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (14) – Third on Court Rainier III

On Wednesday, in his first match in nearly two months, Nadal exhibited no signs of the back injury that caused him to miss several events this season.  Rafa routed Federico Delbonis, dropping just three games.  As mentioned earlier, he has completely dominated his rivalry with Dimitrov.  Nadal leads 13-1, with his only loss coming five years ago on a hard court in Beijing.  On clay, Rafa leads 5-0, and 10-1 in sets.  This is the third consecutive time they have met in Monte-Carlo, and Nadal comfortably won both of those recent matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-1.

A healthy Rafa would seemingly be a significant problem for Grigor.  But Dimitrov has looked sharp thus far this week, winning in straight sets against both Jan-Lennard Struff and Jeremy Chardy.  He should certainly feel at home on the courts in Monte-Carlo, where he lives and trains in the offseason.  And while clay has easily been his worst surface throughout his career, he’s gone 8-2 since last September.  However, all of those wins have come against players ranked outside the top 40.  And of course, no one has ever dominated a surface like Nadal has dominated on this one.  The King of Clay is a strong favorite to reach his 16th consecutive quarterfinal of the Monte-Carlo Masters, an event where he has never lost before the quarters.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. vs. Dan Evans – This will be their first career meeting.  Djokovic easily dispatched of Miami Open finalist Jannik Sinner yesterday.  Evans was a miserable 4-13 lifetime on clay prior to this week.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (9) – The Spaniard leads their head-to-head 3-2, but Rublev won their only match on clay.  The Russian is 16-5 on this surface since the start of 2019, while Bautista Agut is only 14-9.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. David Goffin (11) – They have split four previous encounters.  Zverev claimed both clay court matches, though both went the distance. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Their only tour-level clash took place last fall on clay in Hamburg, with Tsitsipas prevailing 6-4 in the third.  Garin and Guido Pella defeated Stefanos and his brother Petros on Wednesday in doubles.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz – Cabal and Farah won two Majors in 2019, and were champions in Dubai last month.  This is Felix and Hubi’s fourth event this year as a team, though they’ve gone only 2-3.

Thursday’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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