Nadal takes a roll against Rublev

The evening of Monte Carlo is accompanied by a surprise. It is the what and the how, also the when. The reason why is directly contributed by the overflowing talent of Andrey Rublev, who had been warning for a long time that there, under that red-haired imp, there is a formidable tennis player who is on the right path, so be careful. For now, this Friday he gave Rafael Nadal a good roll in the quarters of the Principality tournament: 6-2, 4-6 and 6-2, in 2h 32m. The 23-year-old Russian, surely one of the fittest players since the circuit was resumed after the forced stoppage by the pandemic, signed an extraordinary victory that guided him to the semifinals and knocked down the king of the earth, strangely seized during various phases of grief.

From the outset, it was difficult for Nadal to enter the game. Aware of Rublev’s fang, because no one dissects rivals better than him, he entered the court tense and the stiffness was palpable from the first game, resolved with four errors and one misstep. Bad way to start, soon made up with a break blank that became a mirage because the boy from Moscow, with a bazooka in his right arm and a technical repertoire that many would already like, imposed that dizzying tennis that takes your breath away. It is not known where he is going to exit, he brakes or accelerates when he must and his blows find lines and angles with depth, as the canons mandate. Everything was mixed: he flourished and Nadal withered.

The Russian has a dry wrist twist, knows how to look for the wrong feet and was cornering an opponent who got disordered. The neatness of the two previous rounds, against Federico Delbonis and Grigor Dimitrov, two snacks, went by the cathole and the failures with the backhand and the service – four double faults in the first three turns, 7 in total – began to multiply . It was a bad day for Nadal, blurry from the beginning and enraged, re-engaged in the second set thanks to one of those reactions so typical of him. The epic is seldom absent, but this time a ration was missing. When Rublev had him at his mercy, he scrambled and that set ended up being shoved away. In that territory, Spanish is always the strongest.

Nadal first aborted four balls that would have meant the 4-1 and serve for the Muscovite, who also had another for the 5-2 with the service in his favor; conversely, he conceded four games and took a monumental mental slap. Suddenly, everything turned against Rublev: land, Nadal, a good bunch of lost trains. It so happens that the 20 grand champion continued crooked (“what are you doing, what are you doing!”, He reproached himself) and that he recovered with all the fortitude in the world, without blinking, with determination; cold and cutting in the reply to put the direct after the spectacular entanglement at the start of the third set: from break to break, and from there, a monologue by the tennis player with the best record this course offers. Rublev’s 23 wins and 5 losses.

Tutored by the Spanish Fernando Vicente and resident in Barcelona, ​​hence he does not miss the clay at all, he has a lot to say in the short term. Physical and mental growth is a fact – the day before he had beaten Roberto Bautista – creativity comes as standard and the results attest to it: four titles (Hamburg, Saint Petersburg, Vienna and Rotterdam) since September. Meanwhile, Nadal, who arrived in the Principality with only five games in his legs and after two months without competing, must take flight in the Godó after falling into one of his fetish scenarios. Novak Djokovic fell on the first day, he too derailed.

So, after Hubert Hurkacz’s backfire on the Miami asphalt, Monte Carlo will light up a new Masters 1000 champion. This Saturday Rublev and Casper Ruud (6-4 and 6-3 to Fabio Fognini) will meet in the semifinals, for one side, and Daniel Evans (5-7, 6-3 and 6-4 to David Goffin) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (retired by Alejandro Davidovich, injured) on the other.

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