Nadal On Course For 10th Crown

Rafael Nadal will attempt to win an incredible 10th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters crown on Sunday against fellow Spaniard No. 15 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, the No. 15 seed. Nadal, who will be contesting his 11th final (9-1 record) at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, will also look to seal his 29th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown (28-15).

Nadal leads World No. 24 Ramos-Vinolas 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with victories at the 2013 and 2015 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. It will be the first all left-hander final in the Principality of Monaco since 2010, when Nadal swept aside Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1. It will mark only the fourth time in the tournament’s history that there has been an all-Spanish title match (2002 Ferrero d. Moya, 2010 Nadal d. Verdasco and 2011 Nadal d. Ferrer).

Fourth seed Nadal improved to 62-4 lifetime at the historic clay-court tournament on Saturday afternoon after a 6-3, 6-1 semi-final victory over No. 10 seed David Goffin of Belgium, who had recorded the biggest win of his career over second seed and two-time former champion Novak Djokovic on Friday.

The 30-year-old Nadal is now one match win away from becoming the first man in the Open Era (since April 1968) to earn 10 tournament titles. With victory over Ramos-Vinolas he will clinch a record 50th clay-court crown. On Sunday, the superstar will also be pursuing his first ATP World Tour trophy since 24 April 2016 in Barcelona (d. Nishikori) and the 70th crown of his career.

“It’s tough to believe that I’m in a final again here. It’s unbelievable news for me. It’s another great event. Having all these great results since the beginning of the season allows me to still have a position in the top eight [of the Emirates ATP Rankings]. That’s a very important thing for me,” said Nadal. I’m able to start the clay-court season playing a final in one of the most important events of the year. It’s a very special place for me and this is something that makes me feel very happy. Very excited about it.

“Albert’s playing better than ever. He’s winning huge matches during the whole week. He’s playing with big confidence, with great spirit and fight, overcoming tough situations in every match and playing a high level of tennis all the time. I know that I need to be at my best to keep having chances, to fight for another title here. That’s what I am looking for.”

Nadal came under immediate pressure from Goffin in the pair’s first meeting, recovering from 15/40 to win four straight points in the opening game of the match. Goffin drew first blood, when Nadal struck a forehand into the net at 30/40 in the third game. Goffin appeared in control at 3-2, 40/0, but soon got rattled in a 22-point game that lasted 17 minutes and nine seconds.

On one game point for the Belgian, the chair umpire, Cedric Mourier, got down to overrule a Nadal forehand as having hit the line. Goffin was incensed, stating it was the wrong mark. The game eventually resumed, with Nadal levelling at 3-3 when Goffin hit a forehand into the net. From there on out, it was all Nadal, who broke a second time to 30 for a 5-3 advantage. From 2-3, the Spaniard won four straight games to wrap up the first set in 57 minutes.

The relentless pace and depth of Nadal’s groundstroke pushed Goffin deep behind the baseline in the second set. Goffin was unable to dig his way out of trouble at 1-1, 0/40, although he did save two break points, as Nadal clinched his third service break when the Belgian struck a backhand down the line narrowly wide. Nadal moved into a 4-1 lead, with a break to 30, when Goffin hit a low forehand volley into the net.

Nadal improved to 23-5 on the year in striking a forehand winner down the line, on his third match point opportunity, to break Goffin and complete a 90-minute victory.

Goffin, who was appearing in his third career ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final (also 2016 Indian Wells and Miami), was also trying to become the first Belgian to reach a Masters 1000 final. This season’s Sofia and Rotterdam finalist dropped to a 23-8 mark in 2017.

Despite the loss, the Belgian considered the week in Monte-Carlo to be a success.

“It was a beautiful tournament. I gave it my all. I’m very satisfied with what I achieved against the best players in the world on a surface that I like. It’s only positive,” said Goffin. “I have to keep working in that direction. I think I improved this week and I know now that I can have high ambitions.

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