Semi-Final Preview: Nadal vs. Goffin, Ramos-Vinolas vs. Pouille
Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal is joined by a trio making their semi-final debuts at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Fourth seed Nadal takes on No. 10 seed David Goffin and No. 11 seed Lucas Pouille plays No. 15 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Saturday at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
This is the first time since 1998 there are three double-digit seeds in the Monte-Carlo semi-finals. That year, No. 10 Cedric Pioline defeated No. 12 Alberto Berasategui and No. 14 Carlos Moya, who is currently Nadal’s coach, beat No. 7 Richard Krajicek. Moya went on to win the title (d. Pioline). This is also the first time since 2011 two Spaniards are in the Monte-Carlo semi-finals. Nadal beat Fernando Verdasco in the championship match six years ago.
In the first semi-final, Ramos-Vinolas and Pouille meet for the second time on the ATP World Tour. In the quarter-finals of Auckland in 2015, Pouille won 6-3, 6-2.They also met in the quarter-finals of the Kenitra, Morocco Challenger in 2014, and Ramos-Vinolas prevailed 6-0, 1-6, 7-6. The 29-year-old Spaniard is making his ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final debut. He has posted back-to-back Top 10 wins for the first time in his career, defeating World No. 1 Andy Murray in the third round and No. 8 Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals. Coming into this week, he was 3-26 lifetime against Top 10 opponents. Pouille has only lost one set en route to his second career Masters 1000 semi-final (also 2016 Rome) and is trying to become the second Frenchman in as many years to reach the Monte-Carlo final. Last year, Gael Monfils lost to Nadal in the title match. The last Frenchman to win in Monaco was Cedric Pioline in 2000 (d. Hrbaty).
In the next match, Nadal and Goffin square off for the first time. Goffin leads the ATP World Tour this year with 23 match wins and Nadal follows with 22. The Spaniard is appearing in the semi-finals for the 12th time (10-1) and his only semi-final loss came two years ago (l. to Djokovic). The 30-year-old reigning champion is two wins away from becoming the first man in the Open Era to earn 10 tournament titles. He is also in pursuit of his first ATP World Tour title since 24 April 2016 in Barcelona (d. Nishikori) and the 70th of his career. Nadal’s 28 Masters 1000 titles is second to Djokovic’s 30. Goffin is coming off his biggest career win over No. 2 Djokovic on Friday. It was the 26-year-old Belgian’s first win over a Top 3 opponent (1-14). This is his third career Masters 1000 semi-final (also 2016 Indian Wells, Miami). He is trying to become the first Belgian to reach a Masters 1000 final.