Seeking the 12th Monte Carlo title, Rafael Nadal came to one of his favorite tournaments with a 71-5 score! Rafa made a strong start against Federico Delbonis and Grigor Dimitrov, losing only a couple of games to enter the 16th Monte Carlo quarter-final and set the clash against an in-form Russia Andrey Rublev.
Well-capable of challenging anyone when his strokes are on, Andrey scored a brilliant 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 triumph against the 20-time Major winner, beating Rafa for the first time and advancing into the second consecutive Masters 1000 semi-final after Miami!
The youngster had to stay on the court for almost three hours against Roberto Bautista Agut yesterday, prevailing in that one and stepping on the court today fresh and determined to beat his idol on his favorite surface. Like in 2019 against Fabio Fognini, Nadal was miles from his best, struggling behind the initial shot big time and hitting many double faults, like never before in the Principality.
Andrey overpowered Rafa from the baseline in sets one and three, dictating the pace with bold and aggressive hitting and pushing the opponent's backhand to the limits to open the court and keep the rallies under control.
Rublev saved eight out of 12 break chances and earned seven breaks that carried him home and into the last four. Nadal took only 19 points in the opener, serving under 50% and landing five double faults, many in crucial moments.
The Russian had the upper hand in the shortest points up to four strokes and scored three breaks for a massive 6-2 advantage. The Spaniard opened the clash with a double fault to give serve away, and the Russian confirmed the break with a hold in game two for an early advantage.
Rafa broke back in game four to level the score at 2-2, but that gave him nothing, as Andrey seized the third break chance in the next one to regain the lead. Serving at 2-4, Nadal netted a tired forehand to fall further behind and sprayed another in game eight to hand the opener to Rublev after 38 minutes.
Andrey Rublev defeated Rafael Nadal in three sets to reach the semis in Monte Carlo.
With nothing working his way, Nadal sent a backhand wide at the beginning of the second set to find himself a set and a break down. Andrey saved a break point in game four to stay 3-1 in front and created three opportunities in the next one.
Battling for every point, Rafa saved those to remain within one break deficit, hoping for more chances on the return. They came in game six when Rublev faced four break points, staying composed and erasing them to open a 4-2 gap.
Nadal repelled a break point with a forehand winner in game seven and made a vital hold to hang in. The previous four games saw 13 deuces and nine break chances, with returners converting none of those. That all changed in game eight when Rafa used an open court to place a winner and break back, leveling the score at 4-4 and gathering a boost.
The Spaniard held at 30 in game nine to open a 5-4 advantage, winning four of the last five games and forcing Rublev to serve for staying in the set. Hitting with more power, Nadal grabbed the second straight break at 5-4 to steal the set and force a decider.
Dropping the previous four games, Andrey made a better start in the final set, scoring a break in the first game before wasting two game points and netting a forehand to allow Rafa to break back and erase the deficit. Nadal suffered the sixth break since the start of the encounter to push the Russian 2-1 in front, having to work hard again to remain in touch.
The youngster confirmed the break with a forehand down the line winner that sent him 3-1 up, looking good to cross the finish line first. Losing steam in those moments, Rafa experienced a break at 15 in game five following Andrey's forehand winner, needing a miracle to produce another escape like in the second set.
The Russian forged a 5-1 advantage with an unreturned serve in the seventh game, and Rafa extended the match with a nice hold a few minutes later. Serving for the victory at 5-2, Andrey sealed the deal with a forehand winner, celebrating a great triumph and setting Casper Ruud clash.