Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev have played three times on the Tour, with the Spaniard winning the opening two matches and the Russian who scored the win in the most recent duel. Back in 2017, Rafa ousted the youngest at the US Open after dropping only five games in the quarter-final, building confidence from that one and securing his third crown in New York.
At the last year's ATP Finals, Nadal beat a debutant 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes, facing no break points and earning two breaks that carried him home. The third meeting between Nadal and Rublev came in Monte Carlo this April.
The Spaniard was a heavy favorite in that one, advancing to his 16th consecutive quarter-final in the Principality. Asked about his idol Nadal before the encounter, Rublev said it is never a pleasant experience to face the 20-time Major champion, although he felt ready to give his best and fight.
As it turned out, Andrey stepped on the court with positive vibes and earned a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory in two hours and 32 minutes, stopping Rafa from winning the Monte Carlo crown for the second straight time. Andrey proved to be too strong for the king of clay for his second consecutive Masters 1000 semi-final after Miami, playing well in the sets he won to remain on the title course.
Rublev stole Nadal's serve seven times, dominating the scoreboard in sets one and three and delivering Nadal's 41st ATP loss on clay. The youngster had 23 winners and 28 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and taking advantage of Nadal's over 30 unforced mistakes, especially from his backhand wing that never looked like a serious shot.
Andrey Rublev spoke about Rafael Nadal ahead of their Monte Carlo clash.
In set number two, Rafa grabbed four of the last five games to steal the set and get back into contention, giving his best to challenge a determined opponent.
Nonetheless, he got broken thrice in a row in the final set, which was enough for Andrey to seal the deal and beat his idol for the first time. "Facing Nadal will not be a pleasant experience, that's for sure. Still, I'm looking forward to that, and I want to play at my best. It has already been a good week, so there will not be a lot of pressure, but I will fight," Andrey Rublev said.