Rafa Sets Novak SF Clash
Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal set a blockbuster semi-final clash with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters as he defeated David Ferrer 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 in an all-Spanish contest on Friday.
It will be the 43rd meeting between Nadal and Djokovic, and the fourth time they have played at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Nadal leads their head-to-head 23-19 and defeated the Serb in the 2009 and 2012 finals in Monte-Carlo before Djokovic exacted revenge in the 2013 title match.
“Tomorrow I am not the favourite, that is obvious,” said Nadal. “When you play a player that is winning everything like he is doing, it is always going to be a very tough match to win. He’s playing almost perfect. He’s doing everything well, winning all the matches with not many problems. So when the things go that well, it’s difficult to stop a player like Novak.
“I love this court. I love the tournament. I am in the semi-finals again. That’s a very, very, very positive result for me, especially the way that I get to the semi-finals. Let’s play the match of tomorrow, try my best, fighting for every ball. I am ready, I going to do my best as I do all the time. I know is a big, big challenge, but I don’t have nothing to lose tomorrow.”
The third-seeded Nadal improved to a 53-3 record at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament as he defeated Ferrer in two hours and 45 minutes.
The Spaniard relinquished one of his breaks when leading 5-2 in the first set, but closed out the opener and looked to have control of the match when he went up an early double break 3-0 lead in the second set.
But Ferrer was going to make Nadal work for his victory. The Valencia native recouped one of the breaks in the fourth game, and then thwarted Nadal when he served for the match at 5-4, reeling off three straight games to stun the Mallorcan and level the match.
But Nadal responded with a break at the start of the third set and this time made no mistake. He cushioned his lead with a second break in the seventh game before sealing victory over Ferrer for the 23rd time in 29 meetings. Third seed Nadal improved to a 327-25 record on clay courts.
“I think I played at my highest level for a long time, three hours almost,” said Nadal. “Since the beginning I played a great match. I had a big chance to be 4-0 in the second set. Probably if I was able to make that game, the whole match would have changed and I would have had the chance to win a little bit easier than what I did.
“But at the same time, a victory like this helps me more in terms of confidence, in terms of physical, in terms of mentality. The way I played the third after losing a disappointing second, it was a great third set in terms of tennis, in terms of physical performance, in terms of mentality.
“I think, without doubt, this tournament have been the best tournament since the beginning for me in terms of concentration, in terms of nerves, general nerves. I didn’t play with that nerves that I was playing with in the previous tournaments. I felt in the important points I have been able to play the way that I wanted to play. Today is a very important victory for me for the confidence for the next couple of months.”
The 28-year-old Nadal is looking to regain the Monte-Carlo title that he last won in 2012. He lifted the trophy in eight successive years from 2005-12, before his 46-match winning run was ended by Djokovic in 2013. Last year, he was felled by Ferrer in the quarter-finals. He is looking to win his 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown and his first in almost 12 months, since triumphing in Madrid.
Nadal is through to his third semi-final of the season. The left-hander captured his 65th tour-level title on clay in Buenos Aires in February (d. Monaco).