Rafa, Fabio Battle For Final Spot

Eleven-time champion Rafael Nadal and 13th seed Fabio Fognini will face off for a 15th time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head for a place in the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters final. The other match Saturday features two first-time ATP Masters 1000 semi-finalists, Daniil Medvedev and Dusan Lajovic.

Second seed Nadal leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head with Fognini 11-3 and has won their past six matches. He’s continued to be dominant in Monte-Carlo by powering into the semi-finals without dropping a set. The Spaniard won his past 18 matches and 25 sets at this event. Even when Nadal is tested on Court Rainier III, as he was when Guido Pella had points for a 5-1 lead in the first set of their quarter-final clash, he’s managed to find a new level and step up when it matters most.

Fognini, seeded 13th, has beaten Nadal twice on clay and thrives on playing top players in the world’s biggest stadiums. The Italian arrived in Monte-Carlo with a 4-8 record this season and was just a few points from defeat in his opening-round match against Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev. After surviving that encounter and receiving a walkover in the second round against Gilles Simon, Fognini produced his best tennis this season in defeating third seed Alexander Zverev and ninth seed Borna Coric. He’ll need to continue at that level if he wishes to defeat the Spaniard.

“He’s one of the biggest talents in this sport,” said Nadal of Fognini. “He’s able to win against anybody when he’s playing well and I believe he’s playing well.”

A Monte-Carlo final would be a peak achievement for either Medvedev or Lajovic. Medvedev, seeded 10th, dropped just three games in his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with Lajovic last October in Moscow. He’s racked up more wins than any player on tour this year (21). Medvedev scored his first Top 10 win in nearly two years by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the third round and then ousted Novak Djokovic for his first victory against the World No. 1 in four attempts.

“I’m just happy now. At the same time, until you win a tournament, you’re never too happy,” joked Medvedev. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

At No. 48 in the ATP Rankings, Lajovic’s dream week makes him the lowest-ranked semi-finalist in Monte Carlo since 2005 (No. 69 Juan Carlos Ferrero and No. 101 Richard Gasquet). He’s yet to drop a set and recorded his first Top 5 victory against Dominic Thiem in the third round. The Serbian is a late bloomer at age 28, but has the game to keep on advancing in Monte-Carlo.

“It’s a relief and I showed to myself that I can do it. The tournament is still not over, but I’m extremely satisfied and happy with the way I’ve played all week,” said Lajovic. “To be in the semi-finals of a Masters [1000] is a really big boost of confidence and I hope it’s not the only one for the future.”

The doubles semi-finals also highlight Saturday play. Third seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil take on Dutch pairing Robin Haase and Wesley Koolhof. Seventh seeds Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor close out the day against the Argentine duo of Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos.


COURT RAINIER III start 11:30 am
Robin Haase (NED) / Wesley Koolhof (NED) vs [3] Jamie Murray (GBR) / Bruno Soares (BRA)
Not Before 1:30 pm
[10] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs Dusan Lajovic (SRB)
Not Before 3:30 pm
[13] Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) / Horacio Zeballos (ARG) vs [7] Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Franko Skugor (CRO)

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