AFP/ Monte Carlo
Rafael Nadal’s bid for a 12th Monte Carlo Masters title was shattered by Russia’s Andrey Rublev, who swept to a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 quarter-final win yesterday.
Nadal, bidding to reach the semi-finals of a Masters event for the 75th time, followed world number one Novak Djokovic, who was beaten in the third round, out of the tournament.
“For Rafa, it must be incredibly difficult to play with this pressure of always having to win,” said Rublev who also made the Miami Masters semi-finals at the start of April.
“I’m shocked to see the level which he can reach despite this pressure. It’s much easier to play when you have nothing to lose.”
It was only the second time in 16 appearances in Monte Carlo that Nadal had failed to make the semi-finals.
Rublev is no stranger to taking out the big names — back in 2019, he stunned Roger Federer at Cincinnati in just 62 minutes.
Yesterday, the 23-year-old won the first set in 38 minutes but Nadal then pocketed the last four games of the 73-minute second set to level the contest.
In the decider, Rublev held his nerve, breaking the Spaniard three times on his way to a famous win.
World number eight Rublev will face unseeded Casper Ruud, who put out defending champion Fabio Fognini, for a place in the final, while the other semi-final will feature Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas against Britain’s Dan Evans, the man who shocked Djokovic in the third round.
Tsitsipas is the highest seed left after world number two Daniil Medvedev was forced to withdraw due to a positive Covid-19 test.
Tsitsipas advanced to the last-four when his quarter-final opponent Alejandro Davidovich withdrew after losing the first set.
Tsitsipas, the world number five, will play his sixth Masters 1000 semi-final today, and his first in the principality, against Evans, who battled past Belgian David Goffin 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Struggling with an injury to his left thigh, Spaniard Davidovich tried an underarm serve when facing set point. Tsitsipas pounced to hit a winning backhand return with his opponent quitting after dropping the opener 7-5.
Until he was hurt, world number 58 Davidovich gave his Greek opponent problems.
But at 3-3, Davidovich called for the doctor to treat his left thigh. He immediately managed the first break of the match, as Tsitsipas began to show signs of irritation, to the point of receiving a warning for swearing.
“The level of play was high at the beginning,” said Tsitsipas. “We played a lot of long rallies, and the intensity was high in every one of them.”
Tsitsipas immediately broke back and as Davidovich struggled, broke again to end the set and the match.
“I noticed he was hurt. His leg was hurting. But I didn’t want to think about it, I tried to pretend he wasn’t injured and keep playing as I was doing,” said Tsitsipas. but he added: “I had to do what I had to do: force him to run and work on every point. At the end of the day, he wasn’t able to play me until the end.”
Ruud awakening for Fognini
Evans edged Goffin after the Belgian made 47 unforced errors, including a final forehand on match point, to win.
Goffin also only converted two of the 17 break points. Evans was not very effective either, but he did win four of the nine break points.
The 30-year-old Briton, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 quarter-final on a clay court that is not his favourite surface.
“I played good today. I felt a bit more pressure to not just win yesterday and give a bad performance today,” said Evans.
“It wasn’t easy after the match yesterday, I felt really tired afterwards. To get back and focus, it was difficult. I am proud of how I came back.”
Defending champion Fognini was knocked out by unseeded Ruud, ranked 27, 6-4, 6-3 as the 15th seeded Italian hit 33 unforced errors.
The 22-year-old Norwegian Ruud, 22, makes the last four 24 years after his father Christian had also reached the quarter-finals at the tournament.
“He can be very surprising. He can make winning points from anywhere on the court,” said Ruud.
“So I’m happy to have remained focussed. We’ve both played better tennis in our lives, but in the end I managed to put in a few more balls than him and got the upper hand on key points.”
Spain's Rafael Nadal leaves the court after losing his quarter final singles match against Russia's Andrey Rublev on day seven of the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament in Monaco yesterday. (AFP)
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