Rafael Nadal is poised for his eleventh title after a near perfect demolition of the only player to beat him on clay last year as he reached the semi-final with a 6-0,6-2 win over the Austrian Dominic Thiem. The victory was secured in only 68 minutes at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, where he has a 66-4 record.
In 2017, after Nadal had beaten Thiem in the finals of both Barcelona and Madrid, Thiem had recorded his second career win over the Mallorcan in Rome, but Nadal had subdued the Pretender to his throne with a resounding straight sets win in the Semi-finals at the French Open where he went on to claim his record extending tenth title. .
However, in the eagerly awaited meeting between the two, the top ranked Spaniard romped through the first nine games and a complete whitewash looked possible. Thiem finally held in the fourth and then in the sixth game before Nadal sealed it with another break in the eighth game.
He next goes on to face the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov who reached his first Semi-final in Monte Carlo after beating doubles partner David Goffin of Belgium 6-4,7-6(5) in the first match on Friday. Dimitrov has a 1-10 record against Nadal and is 0-3 on clay and faces a daunting task against Nadal is going for a record 31st Master’s series title. He is tied with Novak Djokovic at 30 each, and after losing to Thiem in Rome last year has won all 12 matches on clay having won 32 sets in a row. The only time Dimitrov beat Nadal was in Beijing at the China Open 2016 on hard courts.
Kei Nishikori, another player on the comeback trail after a long break due to injuries last year, squandered three match points in the second set but dug deep in critical moments to complete a 6-4,6-7(1),6-3 upset of the second seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia.
Nishikori once ranked fourth in 2015, has slipped to 36 in the rankings, continues his coneback after recording his fourth consecutive win which includes the GenNext star Daniil Medvedev, former Monte Carlo finalist Tomas Berdych and veteran Italian Andreas Seppi. A winner of eleven career titles, the Japanese star is also a bronze medalist at Rio Olympics in 2016. He is into his first Semi-final of a Master’s series in 20 months. The Japanese star has reached the final in Madrid (loss to Nadal) in 2014, and then lost to Novak Djokovic in Miami and the Roger’s Cup in Toronto in the year 2016.
Nishikori who has two titles on clay in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015, next faces the German Alexander Zverev who celebrated his 21st birthday as he came from a set down against the Frenchman Richard Gasquet 4-6,6-2,7-5.
Gasquet, a Semi-finalist in Monte Carlo in the year 2005, had become the first Frenchman to register 500 match wins on the ATP Tour on Thursday. Zverev will be making his first appearance in the Semi-final at Monte Carlo against Nishikori in the second match on Saturday after Nadal and Dimitrov play the first Semi-final.
Cilic, who had beaten Nishikori to claim his only major title at the U.S. Open in 2014, drops to 15-6 record in 2018 which includes his third grand slam final at the Australian Open in Melbourne, having already contested the final at Wimbledon 2017. With the win Nishikori leads the head to head 7-6 against Cilic.
Following is the line up for the last four with my pick mentioned first:-
Rafael Nadal (1) (9-1) v. Grigor Dimitrov (4) (14-6) ; Nadal leads 10-1
Alexander Zverev (3) (17-6) v. Kei Nishikori (-) (8-3); Zverev leads 1-0