Friday, 19 April 2013

Monte Carlo Masters - Nadal battles past brave Dimitrov, faces Tsonga in semis. Djokovic strolls past Nieminen, to face Fognini


Nadal, who made an unusual number of errors and looked uncomfortable throughout against his 21-year-old opponent, slowly ground him down and fired an ace to clinch his 45th successive victory at the first big claycourt event of the season.

The Spaniard now has a 47-1 win-loss record at the glamorous venue and will next face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6 6-3 6-4 on the picturesque Centre Court to reach the last four for the first time.

The straight-laced crowd, for once reluctant to support Nadal with Dimitrov threatening to pull off a shock win, stood up to cheer the 34th-ranked Bulgarian as he left the court after a thrilling performance.

Nadal had his share of applause after keeping his bid for a ninth consecutive crown alive by the Mediterranean, where he is coming back from a month-long break after winning three titles including the Indian Wells Masters following seven months out with injury.

"I had a fantastic first set and that's important. That means my level is here," Nadal told a news conference.
"I am losing a bit of intensity at some moments. That's normal after a long time out of competition," added the Spaniard.


Tsonga had opened the chilly grey day, with the sun hidden by the clouds and a cool breeze refreshing the sparse crowd, by winning a fierce battle against Wawrinka.

Both players started brightly, with a solid Wawrinka looking on course to repeat the superb third-round performance which knocked out world number two Andy Murray.

However, Tsonga's aggression paid off with the Swiss-based Frenchman making the most of his break chances to overcome his occasional training partner.

Tsonga, who had not reached the last four in a Masters series event since his 2011 home triumph at the Paris Open, saw himself as the underdog ahead of the semi-final with Nadal.

"It's a incredible challenge. If I win, I'll be a hero. If I lose, I'll just go back home like everybody else," he said.


World No. 1 Novak Djokovic looks to have found his form after being extended to three sets in his first two matches, the Serb issued a ruthless dismissal of Jarkko Nieminen, defeating the 31-year-old Finn 6-4, 6-3 in 77 minutes.
The 25-year-old Djokovic has been feeling his way into the tournament, suffering with a lack of practice time having twisted his ankle nearly two weeks ago on Davis Cup duty for Serbia against the United States. In the semi-finals, he will take on Italy’s Fabio Fognini, against whom he has a 4-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record, including victory last month at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Djokovic is looking to dethrone Rafael Nadal and win this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament for the first time, having finished runner-up to the Spaniard in 2009 and 2012. He has already won two titles this season, triumphing at the Australian Open (d. Murray) and Dubai (d. Berdych).


World No. 32 Fognini stormed into the semi-finals, recording his second Top 10 win a row as he defeated World No. 9 Richard Gasquet of France 7-6(0), 6-2 in 87 minutes. Roared on by the largely Italian crowd in Monaco, Fognini became the first Italian player to reach the semi-finals at the Monte-Carlo Country Club since Andrea Gaudenzi in 1995 (l. to Muster).

"I played another time I think a really good match with a fantastic player," said Fognini. "I mean, he is Top 10 and has won so many tournaments. Now I just have to say I'm really happy. It's my first semi-final in Monte Carlo, my home. I'm so happy.

"This is one of the best performances ever for me," continued the Italian. "It's my first semi-final at a Masters 1000. I have another opportunity to play with a great player here in the centre court in front of so many people, special friends and family."

The 25-year-old Sanremo native saved a set point at 4-5 in the first set and dominated the ensuing tie-break. He then broke Gasquet twice in the second set to beat the Frenchman for the first time in three meetings.

Fognini recorded the biggest win of his career when he upset fourth seed Tomas Berdych in the third round on Thursday. It was only his second Top 10 win in 23 attempts. He is the first unseeded semi-finalist in Monte-Carlo since Juan Carlos Ferrero and Gasquet in 2005 and is the first Italian to reach an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final since Andreas Seppi in Hamburg in May 2008.

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