Today was quarterfinals day in Monte-Carlo and we had a nice spread of unexpected and expected results with some high quality matches. Four of the seven seeds in action went through leaving them with a 57% success rate but the highest remaining seed in Novak Djokovic did fall.
The first upset of the day was the first match on Court Rainier III as Albert Ramos-Vinolas got through Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7(5-7), 6-2. Ramos-Vinolas should have taken the match in straight sets but he did well to recover from the disappointment of losing the second set to bounce back well for the decider. Cilic was playing poorly for the first and final sets but he was playing well enough to string together a good performance in the second set. The first set was a walk in the park for Ramos-Vinolas with Cilic serving very poorly, in which he lost 33% of all his points behind his second serve. The second set was very competitive as after going down an early break, Cilic started to get his game together. A breaker was forced and Ramos-Vinolas took an early lead by going up 5-3 with full control. Cilic managed to fight back and win the next four straight points, including a volley that painted the line, to take the second set. Cilic went up an early break in the decider to lead 2-1 but Ramos-Vinolas won the next five straight games, including three service games, to take the match. Ramos-Vinolas has been putting in a really solid year and will enter the top 10 in the Race to London at the beginning of next week.
The young Frenchman Lucas Pouille made his first masters semifinal after he got past Pablo Cuevas 6-0, 3-6, 7-5 in the most surprising quarterfinal of the tournament. Cuevas played a very erratic match but by the end he seemed to be playing more solidly and it was Pouille who outplayed him. Cuevas was being thrown around like a rag doll in the first set and there was nothing he could as he was serving horribly and only won THREE points behind his serve the whole set. I’ve never seen a stat like it and it definitely should not be coming from the top 30 player that Cuevas is. It started going the opposite way in the second set as Cuevas started to get grip and he started holding serve again which led him to a 4-0 lead before dropping a break but then still closing out the set 6-3. He looked on the way to the semifinals in the decider as he’s backhand was firing and he went up 5-3 with the break. He got extremely nervous and Pouille took advantage by extending the rallies and not going for a winner, which basically meant is what a battle as to who wouldn’t hit the ball out first: a battle which Pouille was never going to lose. This is a massive turning point for Pouille and after the match he spoke about how he thinks training with Federer in the off season was all helping him build up to a result like this.
David Goffin got the biggest win of his career today as he got past world number 2 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 in a very tight and high-quality third set. Goffin played a really good match and showed some great fighting qualities and even if he falls into a heap against Nadal, I would count this as a successful tournament. Djokovic only won 1 of his 6 points behind his second serve and that was one of the main reasons that he dropped three service games on the way to losing the set. Goffin had a bit of a let down at the start of the second set and he fell down an early break to 0-3 and he never recovered the break as a third set was forced. Djokovic went up an early break in the final set and he led 4-2 as he was well on the way to the match. Coffin did get the break back and then finally closed out the match when Djokovic was break while trying to serve to stay in the match. Goffin has reached a masters final before but it will be interesting to see how he goes against Nadal on their favourite surface.
Rafael Nadal played a really solid match to get past Diego Schwartzmen 6-4, 6-4 in the only straight-set quarterfinal in Monte-Carlo and our feature match of the day. There is not much to this win because Nadal was really solid and hit some great forehands were as Schwartzmen couldn’t find answers to what the Spaniard was dishing up. Neither player was serving very well and there were five breaks of serve in both sets with Nadal getting broken twice but Nadal breaking three times in both sets. Schwartzmen did have the opportunities in both sets but he couldn’t take them with Rafa playing all the right shots at all the right times. I think that Nadal looks like he id going full-steam ahead for the title in Monte-Carlo and a successful clay-court season. Despite the loss, Shwartzmen had a great tournament and I don’t think anyone was expecting him to make it as deep as he did.
In some off-court news, Petra Kvitova has not ruled out a return to the game after her knife attack in Rolland Garros. Many didn’t even expect her to return to the game this year but she has said her recovery has been going well. It is no guarantee that she will play but she wants to keep her options open and stay positive, which I believe will be great for her mentality. Serena Williams has also announced her pregnancy with fiancé Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit. Williams will be taking the rest of the year off but does plan to make a come-back in 2018 when she will be 36 or 37. I would expect her to come back round the 2018 French Open but I am now excited about who will be our new Wimbledon champion.