Nadal To Play Thiem In Blockbuster QF

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal withstood the power of Karen Khachanov on Thursday to record his 65th match win at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, where he bids to capture a record 11th trophy this week.

The Spanish superstar, seeking a record 31st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown, defeated 21-year-old Russian Khachanov 6-3, 6-2 in 80 minutes for a place in the quarter-finals against sixth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem.

“It was a good victory – straight sets against a difficult opponent,” said Nadal. “I think I played little bit better than yesterday [against Aljaz Bedene]. My serve worked well and my forehand was better than yesterday.

“The previous match [Thiem versus Novak Djokovic] had been a good match, an emotional one… It was a match between two great players. Anything could happen. Dominic won today. Well done for him.”

Nadal leads Thiem, who beat 2013 and 2015 champion Novak Djokovic earlier in the day, 5-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. The pair met on four occasions in red dirt matches in 2017 (Nadal 3-1).

The first point of the match saw Khachanov counter Nadal’s court craft with power hitting, particularly off his forehand wing. Nadal attempted to lob, but 6’6” Khachanov was wise to it and he jumped to snap back a smash winner. From there on, the Russian knew it would be a long afternoon.

Nadal won 12 of the first 17 points to take a 3-0 lead and although he was broken in the seventh game, the Spaniard bounced back immediately and went on to close out the 43-minute opener. He won four straight games from 4-3 in the first set and the consistency and weight of his ball striking pushed Khachanov deeper behind the baseline.

Nadal, who is competing in his first tournament since sustaining a hip injury in the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, must retain his crown at the historic Masters 1000 tournament to stay at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. Otherwise his Swiss rival, Roger Federer, will return to the top spot on 23 April.

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