Blockbuster Line-Up On Semi-final Saturday

The semi-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Saturday feature No. 2 Andy Murray against No. 5 Rafael Nadal and No. 8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against No. 13 Gael Monfils in an all-French match-up. This is the first time since 1988 two Frenchmen have reached the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo (Yannick Noah l. to Lendl, Thierry Tulasne l. to Martin Jaite). The last French finalist and winner here was Cedric Pioline in 2000 (d. Hrbaty).

In the first match on Court Rainier III, No. 4 seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares meet No. 2 Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. Murray and Soares, who are No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings after winning titles in Sydney and the Australian Open in January, come in with a 16-3 match record on the season. Dodig and Melo are appearing in their first semi-final this year. Murray, who became No. 1 in the individual Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings on Apr. 4, is trying to stay on top. Melo is No. 2 and if he wins the match (w/Dodig), the Brazilian will regain No. 1 on Monday.

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In the first singles match, Nadal and Murray meet for the 23rd time (Nadal leads 16-6) and the eighth time on clay (Nadal leads 6-1). This is their third meeting in this round in Monte-Carlo and the Spaniard won the previous two in 2009 and 2011. Nadal is appearing in the semi-finals for the 11th time in 12 years (except 2014) and he is 9-1 in SF matches. Last year he lost to Djokovic in SF. He has a tournament-best 56-4 career record with a tourney record eight straight titles from 2005 to 2012. The 29-year-old Spaniard is also trying to reach his 100th career ATP World Tour level final (67-32) and 42nd in an ATP Masters 1000 event (27-14). Murray is making his third semi-final appearance here (2009, 2011) and he’s trying to reach his third career clay court final (2-0). Last year he won back-to-back clay titles in Munich (d. Kohlschreiber) and ATP Masters 1000 Madrid (d. Nadal). He is 11-5 in Masters 1000 finals.

In the next match on, friends Monfils and Tsonga square off for the seventh time on the ATP World Tour, the first on clay. Tsonga has a 4-2 head-to-head advantage (all on hard courts) but Monfils won the last meeting in the 3R at ATP Masters 1000 Miami last year. Monfils is making his second straight semi-final showing in Monte-Carlo and he’s trying to advance to his third career ATP Masters 1000 final. He was runner-up in Paris-Bercy in 2009-10. Monfils has not dropped a set in four matches, holding serve 31 of 35 games, while leading the tournament in return games won (53%). Tsonga is appearing in the semi-finals here for the first time since 2013 and the 30-year-old Frenchman (turns 31 on Sunday) is trying to advance to his first career clay court final on the ATP World Tour.

DOUBLE-DIGIT SEEDS: Monfils is trying to become the first double-digit seed to reach the Monte-Carlo final since No. 11 Nadal won the title in 2005.

BIG FOUR DOMINANCE: The ‘Big Four’ of Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal have won 50 of the past 54 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, which dates back to Nadal’s triumph at Monte-Carlo in 2010. The only other players to emerge with an ATP Masters 1000 title are: Robin Soderling (2010 Paris), David Ferrer (2012 Paris), Stan Wawrinka (2014 Monte-Carlo) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2014 Toronto).

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