Friday Preview: Rublev To Battle Nadal in Monte-Carlo
Friday's quarter-finals are set at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Rafael Nadal will be in fresh form against Andrey Rublev after needing just 55 minutes to get past Grigor Dimitrov. Rublev, on the other hand, took two hours and 44 minutes to take out Roberto Bautista Agut.
Nadal gave up just two games to the Bulgarian, who was off his A game and hindered by a rotten tooth.
“Grigor missed much more than usual for him,” Nadal said. “We had some amazing battles together. It’s true that today was not one of these ones. I feel a little bit sorry for him today, that he played I think a bad match. I did my thing. But that's it.”
Rublev survived a battle with Bautista Agut that included six breaks of serve, and saw him fall behind 4-1 in the first two sets before pulling out a 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3 win.
Nadal leads the ATP Head2Head Series against Rublev 2-0 with both wins coming on hard courts (2020 Nitto ATP Finals and 2017 US Open). The World No. 3 has yet to be challenged by the 23-year-old: Rublev has managed more than three games in a set just once
To have any chance at all at the upset, Rublev will have to pick and choose his big-hitting moments carefully (like he eventually did to get the win over Bautista Agut). He’ll have to be the aggressor from start to finish with little margin for error, and dictate rallies by pulling Nadal off the court towards his backhand by using his huge forehand. The key will be managing his unforced errors and emotions — it won't help that he will be coming in more fatigued than the Spaniard.
Daniel Evans will be looking to back up his upset of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic when he takes on David Goffin. Goffin pulled out his own upset over fifth seed Alexander Zverev, but the Briton stole most of the headlines after his backhand slice “dismantled” Djokovic.
“Obviously, I had a fair idea that he wouldn't be that comfortable with it,” Evans said of his slice. “I thought he struggled to generate much pace off of my slice. I was using that more and more in the match because I didn't feel he was hurting me off it. I actually thought I could get on offense from that.
“That's how the match went, I think. If you look at it, I sliced well, ran around and hit good forehands, put him under quite a bit of pressure.”
Goffin and Evans have never played each other before but the match-up should be a great one given Evans’ unpredictable variety and Goffin’s court coverage.
“If you see Dan, he's an amazing, talented player,” Goffin said. “I always thought that he could play on every surface. Maybe in his head he was not a clay-court player in the past, so he was not super confident on that surface. But now it looks like he's more professional, more stable in his game.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas did well to ease past five-time ATP Tour clay-court champion Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-4 and will take a lot of confidence into his clash with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. It will also be their first meeting. Davidovich Fokina, a 21-year-old who topped Lucas Pouille in the third round, is playing in just his sixth Masters 1000 event and first quarter-final.
After a 6-4, 7-6(1) over Filip Krajinovic, Fabio Fognini will take on Casper Ruud in their quarter-final matchup. This week saw Fognini win his first Masters 1000-level match since Shanghai in 2019, the same year that the Italian won Monte-Carlo for his biggest ATP Tour title.
Ruud was all but out against Pablo Carreno Busta in the last match to finish on Thursday, but he battled back from a 5-2 deficit in the third set to score the upset, 7-6(4), 5-7, 7-5.
SCHEDULE - FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2021
COURT RAINIER III start 11:00 am
 S. Tsitsipas (GRE) vs A. Davidovich Fokina (ESP)
D. Evans (GBR) vs  D. Goffin (BEL)
Not Before 2:00 pm
C. Ruud (NOR) vs  F. Fognini (ITA)
 A. Rublev (RUS) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
COURT DES PRINCES start 11:00 am
C. Garin (CHI) / G. Pella (ARG) vs  M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG)
 P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) vs  N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)
After Suitable Rest - D. Evans (GBR) / N. Skupski (GBR) vs R. Klaasen (RSA) / B. McLachlan (JPN)
After Suitable Rest -  J. Cabal (COL) / R. Farah (COL) vs F. Fognini (ITA) / D. Schwartzman (ARG)