Ruthless Rublev shocks Rafa in Monte Carlo

  • Matt Trollope

Andrey Rublev defeated Rafael Nadal in three sets on Friday to blow the Monte Carlo Masters draw wide open.

A day after Dan Evans stunned world No.1 Novak Djokovic on the same court, Rublev held off the 11-time Monte Carlo champion 6-2 4-6 6-2 to progress to his second straight ATP Masters semifinal.

And there will be a new champion at the prestigious clay-court tournament, after defending champion Fabio Fognini fell 6-4 6-3 to Norwegian Casper Ruud. 

Nadal, Djokovic and Fognini had combined to win 14 of the past 15 editions of the Monte Carlo Masters.

Also progressing to the last four were Evans – who backed up his win over Djokovic with a three-set defeat of David Goffin – and No.4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is now the highest-ranked player remaining in the draw.

Rublev led Nadal 6-2 4-2 before the King of Clay began a stirring comeback, winning four straight games to completely turn the match around.

But, despite having never beaten Nadal and battling on a surface and at a venue the Spaniard loves, Rublev showed incredible mental strength to re-set for the third set.

He broke Nadal three times en route to a 5-1 lead, and closed out the match in two-and-a-half hours.

Nadal was not at his sharpest, double-faulting seven times and making 19 unforced errors from his backhand wing alone. 

“Today was one of those days that my serve was a disaster,” he admitted. “When you serve with no confidence, you are just focusing on trying to serve, not thinking about how you want to (hit) the ball.

“When you face great player like him and you don't play well, you should lose. That's easy to analyse.”

The more aggressive Rublev served bigger, came to the net more and won the bulk of rallies under five shots.

Notably, he also won the majority of rallies extending more than nine strokes – typically Nadal’s domain.

“I would say this week I am controlling my emotions. At the end that's the key,” said Rublev, who has won a tour-leading 23 matches in 2021.

“All the situation was strange. Was not real that I was winning 6-2, 3-1, having breakpoints for second break. Probably inside I understood that something is going to change. It cannot be like this all the match.

“If after the second set I would say something or if I would show emotions, for sure the third set will be over, will be 6-2 for him. So I'm happy that I could handle it.”

Rublev will take on Ruud for a place in his first ever ATP Masters final, after recently reaching the Miami Open semifinals. That semifinal will follow the clash between Tsitsipas and Evans.  

Rublev owns the head-to-head against Ruud 3-0, while Tsitsipas is 2-0 over Evans.

Tsitsipas advanced to the last four after opponent Alejandro Davidovich Fokina retired with a left thigh strain after dropping the first set 7-5.