Rafa Reaches 15th Monte-Carlo QF

For the third time at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Rafael Nadal had all the answers to Grigor Dimitrov’s questions on Thursday.

The 11-time champion, who overcame Dimitrov at this event in 2013 and last year, broke serve on four occasions to defeat the Bulgarian 6-4, 6-1 and advance to his 15th quarter-final in the Principality. Nadal improves to 12-1 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Dimitrov, which includes an unbeaten 5-0 record on the red dirt.

“I am happy with the way that I am playing. The first two rounds I played more than well enough to win,” said Nadal. “I had two confident scores against two good players… That’s why I am happy. The first matches after an injury [are] always a tough thing to come back from…

“So that’s a good start for me on the clay court season. Tomorrow is another opportunity to play against a good player, because he’s playing well. He already won three good matches. So he will be with big confidence, and I need to be ready to try to find solutions again tomorrow. Every victory is important for the confidence. It’s important for the improvements. Hopefully today’s victory helps for tomorrow, too.”

The Spaniard has now registered 70 wins at the Monte-Carlo Country Club (70-4). The only tournament Nadal has achieved more victories at is Roland Garros, where the 11-time winner has amassed an 86-2 record.

Attempting to win his fourth straight title in the Principality, the Manacor native has now won 17 consecutive matches in the Principality. Nadal’s most recent loss at this event came to Novak Djokovic in the 2015 semi-finals.

The 80-time tour-level titlist has won each of his past 15 third-round matches at the third ATP Masters 1000 event of the year. The only man to ever beat Nadal in the third round at this event was Guillermo Coria, who defeated the tournament debutant in straight sets in 2003.

After saving two break points in his opening service game, Nadal found success attacking Dimitrov’s backhand with depth and heavy topspin to move into a 3-1 lead. But Dimitrov kept his composure, holding to love in his following service game before finding a way back into the set as Nadal committed back-to-back unforced errors.

Nadal soon shifted his focus back towards Dimitrov’s backhand corner, extracting errors to claim the first set. From there, the Spaniard applied constant pressure on Dimitrov’s serve. After opening up a 4-1 lead, the Spaniard ripped a forehand winner up the line and drilled a backhand onto the baseline to move one game from the quarter-finals. Nadal converted his second match point after one hour and 34 minutes, forcing Dimitrov into a forehand error.

Nadal will face Guido Pella of Argentina in the quarter-finals. Pella defeated Marco Cecchinato, for the first time in three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to reach his first Masters 1000 quarter-final.

With his 16th win of the season (16-7), the Sao Paulo champion takes sole ownership of fourth place on the list of players with the most tour-level victories this year. Only Daniil Medvedev (20), Roger Federer (18) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (18) have claimed more match wins this year.

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