The 2017 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters tournament was filled with surprises, and one of the indicators of that thing, was that the first semifinal saw 11th seed Lucas Pouille meet Albert-Ramos Vinolas, seeded 15th.
Pouille has been a Masters 1000 tournament semifinalist before, he achieved that feat in 2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia. He got really lucky there, getting a walkover from Juan Monaco in the quarterfinals after advancing to the main draw as a lucky loser. This time, he actually took advantage of the draw opening up, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka both losing one round before he would have to play them. It wasn’t that easy anyway, but he managed to outlast Pablo Cuevas in the quarterfinals 6-0 3-6 7-5, despite trailing 4-5 0-30 on the Uruguayan’s serve in the third set.
If Pouille’s semifinal run was helped by the draw opening up, then it definitely wasn’t the case when it comes to the Spaniard. Ramos-Vinolas had to scrape past two top 10 players on his way to semifinals. In the third round he met the world no.1 Andy Murray, who wasn’t really himself yet after an elbow injury, but it was still an amazingly tough opponent, and when Ramos was down 0-4 in the third set he seemed done and dusted. However, he came back strongly to win the match 2-6 6-2 7-5 and score the biggest upset of his life. The Spaniard then backed it up with a win over 5th seed Marin Cilic, who had zero match wins since February, but out of nowhere got hot in the Monte Carlo tournament. Ramos-Vinolas was once again on the verge of losing, down 0-2 in the third, but came back to win the last six games of the match. That way, it became sure that one of the finalists will be a player that has never even played a final of an ATP 500 tournament, let alone an ATP 1000 one.
Ramos-Vinolas took advantage of Lucas’s slow and shaky start to break his serve in the opening game. However, on courts that are as slow and high bouncing as the Court Rainer III is, breaks are something really common and the Spaniard got broken back in his very next game. Both players stabilized their games a little bit and started holding their serves up until 3-3. Ramos Vinolas then took advantage of some bad misses from Pouille, he actually started winning all long rallies and won four straight games from trailing 2-3 to seal the opening set 6-3. The Frenchman won just one point in his last two games on serve.
Ramos started the second set with a comfortable hold and the next game was very important for the Frenchman. Having lost his last two service games and being visibly frustrated there was a danger that a next break might mean the match is over. Pouille managed to hold and then even had two break points on the opponent’s serve. However, the Spaniard stood firmly and came through. Pouille was still inconsistent, but at the same time he really upped his game and didn’t allow the Spaniard any chances in his games.
The Frenchman then held another chance, a break point at 4-4, but missed the return and Ramos was able to hold yet gain. Pouille hit some stunners in the next game and managed to stay in the match. Finally, in the next game, the Frenchman was able to capitalize on his third break point opportunity. On previous break points he allowed Ramos to have initiative and this time he did that too, but Ramos finally made a simple mistake. Pouille finished the set 7-5 on his second set point.
The really inconsistent in the beginning of the match Frenchman was starting to play better and better and in the third set it was Ramos who had to change something in his game, or otherwise he would not be able to keep up with Pouille. It was the winner of the second set who faltered at the beginning of the decider, double-faulting to give the opponent the lead of a break. Ramos quickly stormed to 3-0. The Frenchman received back treatment and kept his serve. That was the last game he was able to win in this match, as the Spaniard broke him again and won three straight games to clinch it 6-3 5-7 6-1.
It wasn’t really an amazing quality encounter but for what it’s worth Ramos-Vinolas proved more consistent than the Frenchman and he keeps winning in what is easily the best week of his life (at least in terms of tennis). He’s going to be the underdog against either Nadal or Goffin, but he’s been there before three times this week and well, who knows?
For point-by-point coverage of this and other matches from the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters tournament be sure to visit www.tennis-pulse.com