Two time champion Novak Djokovic has joined the list of casualties at the first clay court Masters series tournament of the year in Monte Carlo. The nine time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain is now the firm favourite for the title after a straight set win on Friday.
The second seeded Djokovic, 2013 and 2015 champion, recovered after a dreadfull first set and looked on course for his third straight three set match win against David Goffin of Belgium, before a final lap sprint by the 10th seed turned the tables to inflict a 2-6, 6-3, 5-7 loss on the Serbian, in a match lasting two hours and thirty eight minutes.
While Goffin saved seven out of nine break points he faced, Djokovic saved 13 out of the 17. It was his first win in six attempts over the Serb who now drops to 14-4 for the year which includes only one title in Doha, Qatar in January.
Goffin next goes on to face the fourth seeded Rafael Nadal who was a 6-4, 6-4 winner over the Argentine Diego Schwartzman in 99 minutes. The 41st ranked Argentine is projected to rise to a career high no. 36 in the rankings to be released on Monday.
Nadal, the winner in Monte Carlo from 2005 to 2012 and then in 2016, was tested in the first set but then reeled of four consecutive games from 4-4 in the first set to go up 2-0 in the second but Schwartzman fought back before finally succumbing to the Malorcan who is now the firm favourite to win his 29th ATP 1000 title of his career.
The other semi final will be between the Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas and the Frenchman Lucas Pouille, both of whom will have a chance to reach their first masters series final. The 15th seeded Ramos-Vinolas upset the fifth seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2 in the first match of the day in two hours and thirty three minutes, just a day after he erased a 0-4 lead in the deciding set to upset the world number one Andy Murray.
The 24th ranked Vinolas should have won in straight sets but dropped the last four points in the second set tie-break and then trailed 0-2 in the third set. He recovered to take the next six games to claim his first win over the Croat since the 2011 Shanghai Rolex Masters.
In the other quarter final, the eleventh seeded Lucas Pouille bageled the Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 6-0, and then looked in danger of being bageled in the second as he trailed 0-4. Cuevas finally took the second set 6-3 and then looked in command as he led 5-3 in the decider. The Frenchman then reeled off the last four games to seal the win 6-0, 3-6, 7-5 in one hour and 58 minutes.
The following is the line up in the last four with my pick mentioned first:-
Rafael Nadal (4) (22-5) v. David Goffin (10) (22-7), first meeting.
Lucas Pouille (11) (12-7) v. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (15) (17-11), Pouille leads 1-0
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]