Rafael Nadal advanced to the 2018 Rolex Monte Carlo Masters final, defeating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-1.
Despite playing just one tournament this year prior to this week (Australian Open plus two Davis Cup matches), world no.1 Rafael Nadal came onto his favorite surface in his trademark brilliant form. The Spaniard lost just eleven games during his first three matches (against Thiem, Khachanov and Bedene) and looked close to unbeatable. Nadal is also a ten-time champion at the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters, possessing a 66-4 win-loss ratio.
His rival on Saturday afternoon was Grigor Dimitrov, currently ranked as World no. 5 in the ATP Rankings, The Bulgarian also didn’t play well in the first three months of 2018, after finishing the Australian Open in the quarterfinals and a runner-up performance in Rotterdam (lost to Federer) he lost three of his last four matches. However, he somehow managed to regain some form on clay, beating Herbert, Kohlschreiber and Goffin, dropping two sets on the way.
The Spaniard led the head-to-head 10-1, 3-0 on clay courts. Dimitrov’s lone victory came at the China Open in 2016.
Nadal took the first three games, although it was more competitive than the result suggests. The Bulgarian lacked pop on his strokes and didn’t have enough power to really dictate play. However, out of nowhere Dimitrov came back and leveled the set, breaking to love in a game that was decided by Nadal’s errors. When your shots lack power it usually leads to impatience and overhitting but the Bulgarian was very smart to change his tactical plan to simply trying to hit deep balls, not really going for the lines. It gave him a lot of success as around the ninth or tenth game of the first set he led Nadal in baseline rallies won. Anyway, the tenth game proved to be decisive as the world no.1 broke with a forehand down the line winner to finish the set six games to four.
It all went downhill from there for Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian was broken to love in the second game and to love in the fourth game. The second set was a terrible errorfest, especially from the Bulgarian. Nadal took the set and the match 6-4, 6-1.
After another ruthless performance from Nadal, it’s hard to imagine him losing to anyone right now (at least on clay). Tomorrow’s final against either Nishikori or Zverev should not be a problem as Nishikori is still not at his best after the injury and the Spaniard crushed Zverev a week ago in the Davis Cup quarterfinals. As for Dimitrov, he definitely didn’t play poorly (at least in the first set) and can be one of the most dominant forces on the tour in the clay season. Dominant force in this case would mean someone who constantly reaches semifinals and quarterfinals just to lose to Rafael Nadal.