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Friday Preview: Rublev To Battle Nadal in Monte-Carlo

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

Friday’s quarter-finals are set at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Rafael Nadal will be in fresh form against Andrey Rublev after needing just 55 minutes to get past Grigor Dimitrov. Rublev, on the other hand, took two hours and 44 minutes to take out Roberto Bautista Agut.

Nadal gave up just two games to the Bulgarian, who was off his A game and hindered by a rotten tooth.

“Grigor missed much more than usual for him,” Nadal said. “We had some amazing battles together. It’s true that today was not one of these ones. I feel a little bit sorry for him today, that he played I think a bad match. I did my thing. But that’s it.”

Rublev survived a battle with Bautista Agut that included six breaks of serve, and saw him fall behind 4-1 in the first two sets before pulling out a 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3 win.

Nadal leads the ATP Head2Head Series against Rublev 2-0 with both wins coming on hard courts (2020 Nitto ATP Finals and 2017 US Open). The World No. 3 has yet to be challenged by the 23-year-old: Rublev has managed more than three games in a set just once

To have any chance at all at the upset, Rublev will have to pick and choose his big-hitting moments carefully (like he eventually did to get the win over Bautista Agut). He’ll have to be the aggressor from start to finish with little margin for error, and dictate rallies by pulling Nadal off the court towards his backhand by using his huge forehand. The key will be managing his unforced errors and emotions — it won’t help that he will be coming in more fatigued than the Spaniard. 

Daniel Evans will be looking to back up his upset of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic when he takes on David Goffin. Goffin pulled out his own upset over fifth seed Alexander Zverev, but the Briton stole most of the headlines after his backhand slice “dismantled” Djokovic.

“Obviously, I had a fair idea that he wouldn’t be that comfortable with it,” Evans said of his slice. “I thought he struggled to generate much pace off of my slice. I was using that more and more in the match because I didn’t feel he was hurting me off it. I actually thought I could get on offense from that.

“That’s how the match went, I think. If you look at it, I sliced well, ran around and hit good forehands, put him under quite a bit of pressure.”

Goffin and Evans have never played each other before but the match-up should be a great one given Evans’ unpredictable variety and Goffin’s court coverage.

“If you see Dan, he’s an amazing, talented player,” Goffin said. “I always thought that he could play on every surface. Maybe in his head he was not a clay-court player in the past, so he was not super confident on that surface. But now it looks like he’s more professional, more stable in his game.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas did well to ease past five-time ATP Tour clay-court champion Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-4 and will take a lot of confidence into his clash with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. It will also be their first meeting. Davidovich Fokina, a 21-year-old who topped Lucas Pouille in the third round, is playing in just his sixth Masters 1000 event and first quarter-final. 

After a 6-4, 7-6(1) over Filip Krajinovic, Fabio Fognini will take on Casper Ruud in their quarter-final matchup. This week saw Fognini win his first Masters 1000-level match since Shanghai in 2019, the same year that the Italian won Monte-Carlo for his biggest ATP Tour title.  

Ruud was all but out against Pablo Carreno Busta in the last match to finish on Thursday, but he battled back from a 5-2 deficit in the third set to score the upset, 7-6(4), 5-7, 7-5. 

Watch Live | View TV Schedule 


COURT RAINIER III start 11:00 am
[4] S. Tsitsipas (GRE) vs A. Davidovich Fokina (ESP)
D. Evans (GBR) vs [11] D. Goffin (BEL)

Not Before 2:00 pm
C. Ruud (NOR) vs [15] F. Fognini (ITA)
[6] A. Rublev (RUS) vs [3] R. Nadal (ESP)

COURT DES PRINCES start 11:00 am
C. Garin (CHI) / G. Pella (ARG) vs [4] M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG)
[7] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) vs [2] N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)
After Suitable Rest – D. Evans (GBR) / N. Skupski (GBR) vs R. Klaasen (RSA) / B. McLachlan (JPN)
After Suitable Rest – [1] J. Cabal (COL) / R. Farah (COL) vs F. Fognini (ITA) / D. Schwartzman (ARG)

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Double Duty: Evans, Skupski Maintain Momentum In Monte-Carlo

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

Hours after handing World No. 1 Novak Djokovic his first defeat of 2021, Daniel Evans was right back on court at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters ready to wreak more havoc on the doubles draw. Evans partnered with countryman Neal Skupski to topple third seeds Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 3-6, 7-6(5), 13-11 on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals. 

Facing Dodig and Polasek for the second time in as many weeks, the Brits had to dig deep to save three match points in a nail-biting match tie-break. Evans erased two of those with inch-perfect lobs as the pair turned around the decider and sealed the victory in an hour and 53 minutes.

“Obviously clay [is] not my favorite surface. But I think the conditions have actually suited me this week,” Evans said in a post-match press conference. “It’s not been very warm. The ball stayed low. I’m moving way better on the clay. That’s definitely helped.”

The win sent Evans and Skupski into their second consecutive ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final, where they will face Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan. It also continues the momentum built up from a strong run to the final at the Miami Open presented by Itau, the pair’s first tournament as a team. Skupski had previously partnered with older brother Ken Skupski to victory at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, their first title together since 2019. They had to part ways temporarily after Ken was diagnosed with a blood clot in his right leg ahead of their trip to Miami.

Joining them in the quarter-finals, top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah stormed past Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz with a 6-0, 6-2 victory. The Colombians allowed their opponents to hold serve exactly once during the match – at the start of the second set. But the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winners reeled off another six games in a row to advance.


Cabal and Farah will take on Fabio Fognini and Diego Schwartzman next. The defending champion in singles, Fognini partnered with Schwartzman in doubles for the first time in three years as they took down sixth seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot 1-6, 6-4, 10-7. The pair previously linked up at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open, where they bowed out to Cabal and Farah.

Also in action, second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic booked a quarter-final clash with seventh seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. The Croatians needed an hour and 13 minutes to take down alternates Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar 6-4, 1-6, 10-3 to advance.

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That Way To The Quarters! Defending Champ Fognini Advances

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

It’s not often that Fabio Fognini flies under the radar. But the defending champion has done just that, quietly advancing to the quarter-finals of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on Thursday.

The 15th seed battled past Serbian Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6(1) after one hour and 28 minutes to reach the last eight at the venue where he won his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title two years ago. This is his third trip to the quarter-finals of this tournament.

“Of course I had my best performance here of my career. This tournament is always in my head,” Fognini said earlier in the week. “For sure it’s really special because I was born here, I was born in San Remo. I was practising here since I was 14 years old and I have a lot of memories here.”

Krajinovic led their ATP Head2Head series 2-0, and the Serbian did not lose more than six games in either of his victories. But Fognini, who arrived in Monaco on a three-match losing streak, was locked in against the World No. 37.


Fognini was two points away from losing the second set at 2-5, 30/30, but the 33-year-old remained calm and controlled play to close out the match in straight sets. The Italian won seven consecutive points in the tie-break, pointing his right index finger to his team in celebration after the Serbian made an error on match point.

The defending champion will next play Casper Ruud, who rallied past Marbella champion Pablo Carreno Busta in the last match of the day. The Norwegian leads Fognini 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head series, with both of those triumphs coming last year.

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Rublev Outlasts Bautista Agut; Gets Nadal Next

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

Andrey Rublev booked his place in the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters quarter-finals with 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-3 win over Roberto Bautista Agut on Thursday. The 23-year-old’s reward for all of his hard work? A showdown with a very fresh Rafael Nadal.

Bautista Agut came into the third-round contest with a 3-2 edge in their ATP Head2Head series, having beaten the Russian in the Doha semi-finals. Despite that and the Spaniard having early 4-1 leads in the first two sets, it was Rublev who emerged victorious after finding the right balance between ripping groundstrokes and staying patient. Neither could keep command of their service games, trading six breaks across two hours and 44 minutes.

After going down 3-0 and 4-1 in the first set, Rublev settled in and turned the momentum in his favour by putting more steady pressure on Bautista Agut. The Russian had to paint the lines, place sharp angles or push forward into the net to avoid exhaustingly long rallies with the world No. 11 (more than 50 of their rallies would last over nine shots).

He evened out the match to 4-4 and had a double break point opportunity, but didn’t capitalise. Rublev would make good on his next break chance at 5-5 and then failed to serve out the set. In the tie-break, it was all Rublev from the start with huge cuts off his forehand wing. He jumped out to a 4/0 lead and closed it out comfortably 7/2.

The match repeated a similar flow in the second set, with Rublev letting out some early frustration and errors before turning the momentum on its head. Again, the Russian would go down 4-1 and claw his way back, this time winning four games in a row. Bautista Agut bounced back to hold for 5-5 and with a couple of deft drop shots he picked up a crucial break for 6-5 and closed out the set 7-5.

At the start of the third set, the 34-year-old sprayed a few uncharacteristic unforced errors of his own. Rublev successfully changed the pattern from the first two sets to grab the early break, 2-0. He seemed to find a perfect balance between pulling the trigger on winners and managing his errors. Though Bautista Agut still got his own break in to get back on track, Rublev responded by breaking one final time for 4-2 before closing out the match.

Rublev came into the clay-court season on the heels of three semi-final runs (Miami, Dubai and Doha), having picked up his first ATP Tour title of the season in Rotterdam. The eight-time ATP Tour champion is a threat for the title every week, especially after winning five crowns in 2020.

He’ll need to recover quickly for his quarter-final with Nadal. The World No. 3 leads their ATP Head2Head Series 2-0, with Rublev looking to win his first set against the 11-time Monte-Carlo champion.  

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How Evans Stunned Djokovic In Monte-Carlo

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

The slice is not often thought of as a weapon. But for Daniel Evans on Thursday, it was exactly that as the British No. 1 “dismantled” World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

Entering the week, Evans had not won a tour-level match on clay in nearly four years. But against Djokovic, the World No. 33 leaned on his “old reliable” — his backhand slice — to claim the biggest win of his career.

“He’s very unpredictable with his shots,” Djokovic said. “He dismantled my game.”

Evans’ backhand slice isn’t a typical “weapon” like Rafael Nadal’s forehand. The Briton uses the shot to let his opponents beat themselves.

“I had a fair idea that he wouldn’t be that comfortable with it. I thought he struggled to generate much pace off my slice. I was using that more and more in the match because I didn’t feel he was hurting me off it,” Evans said. “I actually thought I could get on offence from that.
That’s how the match went, I think. If you look at it, I sliced well, ran around and hit good forehands, put him under quite a bit of pressure.”

Evans only hit 20 winners to Djokovic’s 24 on Court Rainier III in the Principality. But the top seed was admittedly off his game, and the 30-year-old used his wide array of skills — especially his backhand slice — to keep Djokovic from changing that.

The 36-time ATP Masters 1000 champion has one of the best backhands in tennis history, yet Evans was unafraid of peppering that shot with his backhand slice on Thursday. The quarter-finalist hit 69 per cent of his backhand slices into Djokovic’s backhand third of the court, and another 15 per cent down the middle, with a majority of those shots aimed at the Serbian’s backhand.

“He has a lot of variety in his game. He uses [his] slice so efficiently. He’s quick around the court,” Djokovic said. “He’s got a really all-around game. [He is a] really a nice player to watch, not a great player to play against. Lots of talent.”

Djokovic’s average backhand speed was 108 kph in the match, and Evans’ was just 91 kph. But the goal wasn’t to overpower the Serbian; it was to allow him to short circuit. If Djokovic ran around his backhand, he’d leave the entire forehand side of the court open. When Djokovic does that, it’s important that he seizes control of the point with his run-around forehand, something that was difficult to accomplish against Evans’ low-bouncing slice.

If you look at both players’ backhand hit points from their third-round encounter — Djokovic hit 38 per cent of his backhands from inside the baseline compared to 12 per cent from Evans — you would think the Serbian was in control. That was not the case.

Novak Djokovic

Daniel Evans

Overall, 51 per cent of Evans’ rally shots were slices compared to nine per cent for the World No. 1, and both men made 32 unforced errors during rallies in the match. In the key moments, however, it was Djokovic making the mistakes.

Case in point came at 5-5 in the second set, when Evans earned the decisive service break. The unseeded player didn’t do anything special to take the game from Djokovic. Instead, he allowed the Serbian to break himself.

All nine backhands Evans hit in the game were slices, with eight of them landing past the service line. The one that did not was a drop shot, which cost the Briton the point. Evans did not hit one winner in the game; Djokovic made four unforced errors (including a double fault).

Evans’ backhand slice is not a weapon that impresses the eye, but it’s critical nonetheless, and it helped him reach his first Masters 1000 quarter-final, in which he will play Belgian David Goffin on Friday.

– Graphics courtesy Hawk-Eye Innovations/ATP Media

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Why Nadal Never Lets Up: ‘I Am Always Focussed On What Can Happen’

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

Third seed Rafael Nadal dropped just two games and didn’t face a break point in a one-sided third-round meeting with Grigor Dimitrov at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but the Spaniard isn’t letting the result get to his head.

It was clear to viewers at home – and certainly to Nadal himself on Court Rainier III – that Dimitrov was not at his best. The Bulgarian was struggling to find the court during the 6-1, 6-1 rout, trying to finish points quickly and racking up 35 unforced errors in the process.

His struggles did not go unnoticed by the 11-time Monte-Carlo champion; the pair has met 14 times previously, with Dimitrov taking a set off of Nadal at this same venue in 2013. But in signature Nadal fashion, he did not concede an inch to his opponent on the court.

“Grigor missed much more than usual [for] him. We’ve had some amazing battles together. [It] is true that today was not one of these ones,” Nadal said after extending his ATP Head2Head lead to 14-1 over the Bulgarian.

“I feel a little bit sorry for him today, that he played, I think, a bad match. I did my thing. But that’s it. I am just focussed on [trying] to play as good as possible every single point.”

It was only after the match that the real culprit was revealed. In a press conference, Dimitrov told journalists that he had been struggling with debilitating pain due to ‘a massive tooth problem’ as a result of an infection.

“I didn’t know that. Now I understand a little bit more the things,” Nadal said. “I wish him all the best. He’s a great guy, a good friend… He didn’t tell me. That shows how good [a] guy he is. Hopefully the situation gets better for him soon.”

Nadal booked a spot into his 16th consecutive quarter-final in Monte-Carlo without dropping a set and at the expense of just five games. But even here, where the Spaniard has won 73 matches and taken a bite out of 11 trophies, Nadal never lets himself believe he is the favourite.


“I am always focussed on what can happen. Even if sometimes you go on court, you go, ‘Okay, I’m feeling great’, I always have had all the respect for the match, for the opponent, and for the tournament,” he said.

“Even if I feel good – I don’t say I am ‘worried’, but I am always focussed on trying to not lose that feeling. It’s not about, ‘I’m going on court and I’m feeling good today so things [are] going to go well.’ I feel good, so I need to keep going. That’s the way I proceed.”

Nadal will hope to continue as planned when he takes on the winner of sixth seed Andrey Rublev and ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut. 

“Good opponents [ahead]. I need to be playing at my highest level,” Nadal said. “I hope to be ready to play well and give myself chances to keep going.”

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Dimitrov's Distress: Tooth Pain, Rafa Blowout

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

Grigor Dimitrov was in a world of pain during his 6-1, 6-1 loss to Rafael Nadal on Thursday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, and it wasn’t just because of the lopsided scoreline. Challenging Nadal on clay is a daunting enough task in perfect health, let alone with a nagging toothache. 

“I’ve been struggling with a massive tooth problem for the past four or five days. I have like a big infection of my tooth,” Dimitrov said. “It’s been hard. I haven’t been able to sleep well or eat well or anything like that. It’s time to put an end to it.”

Tooth pain can grind you down both mentally and physically, just like Nadal’s relentless baseline game with which he hit 17 winners. The World No. 3 said he felt sorry for Dimitrov for playing “a bad match”.

“He was playing too aggressive and little bit out of rhythm,” Nadal said. “Sorry for him. I wish him all the best.”

At least Dimitrov’s work day was mercifully short, lasting just 55 minutes.

“I was bearing it for a while this whole week,” Dimitrov said. “Straight to the doctor’s, unfortunately. Very, very unpleasant moment. It is what it is. At least I’m glad it happened on a home soil, at home, so I can go see my dentist and figure this problem as soon as possible.”

Heading into the third-round encounter, the World No. 17-ranked Bulgarian had a lot going against him already: Nadal is an 11-time champion in Monte-Carlo and had beaten Dimitrov in 13 of 14 meetings (he’s now 14-1 in their ATP Head2Head Series). 

“I don’t [think] there was a match to be played today,” Dimitrov said. “He is who he is on the clay. If you don’t do the necessary things against him, then obviously you don’t stand a chance.”

Nadal faces the winner of Andrey Rublev and Roberto Bautista Agut next. 

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Clinical Nadal Dismisses Dimitrov In Monte-Carlo

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2021

No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov might be a resident of Monte-Carlo, but on Thursday it was Rafael Nadal who continued to make himself right at home in the Principality. The 11-time champion was in imperious form against Dimitrov as he dropped just two games on his way to the quarter-finals. 

Nadal needed just 55 minutes to score a 6-1, 6-1 victory and extend his ATP Head2Head dominance over the Bulgarian to 14-1 (4-0 in Monte-Carlo). The Spaniard didn’t face a break point in either set and fired 17 winners to close out the victory.

“[I am] sorry for him. He played a bad match. That is the truth,” Nadal said in his post match interview. “He made a lot of mistakes. I was there. I was doing the right thing, but it is true that today was more his fault than my good tennis.”

Three double faults from Dimitrov in his opening service game set the tone for the match early on, as the Bulgarian quickly surrendered the first of four breaks to Nadal. Dimitrov found himself unable to make up the lost ground as the third seed got going.

The Spaniard targeted Dimitrov’s one-handed backhand to great success, and piled on the pressure every time his opponent stepped up to serve. As a result Nadal broke Dimitrov four times during the match, opening both sets with daunting double-break 4-0 leads.

“I think I did the right preparation. I felt ready for action again. I am excited to play here in one of my favourite tournaments, without a doubt,” Nadal said. “[I am] happy to enjoy the competition again, to enjoy the Tour. In Mallorca, I had some good practices. Let’s see. Tomorrow [will be] another tough match. I hope to be ready for it.”

Back into the last eight at the Monte-Carlo Country Club for the 16th consecutive time, Nadal will next face sixth seed Andrey Rublev, who booked his first quarter-final berth in the Principality with a hard-fought 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3 victory over Roberto Bautista Agut. Nadal owns a 2-0 ATP Head2Head advantage over the Russian, with both victories coming on hard courts.

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