Nadal chases 9th Monte Carlo title, faces Monfils in final

0 Comments

MONACO (AP) Standing in the way of a ninth Monte Carlo Masters title for Rafael Nadal is Frenchman Gael Monfils, an opponent the Spaniard has beaten every time they’ve met on clay and who has a dismal 5-18 record in finals.

Nadal has waited two years to win a Masters title, and four years to get his Monte Carlo crown back, so losing on Sunday would be a particularly bitter blow.

Nadal beat Andy Murray 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday to earn a shot at a record-equaling 28th Masters title – with Novak Djokovic – and a 68th overall.

“It’s been a very important week for me,” Nadal said. “I increased the speed of the ball and played a little bit more inside the court, because Andy had control of the point too many times in the first set.”

Monfils has lost the only two Masters finals he has played – both in Paris – the last of which was in 2010.

“I expect an enormous match, a huge match. I need to try to have him play badly, or walk all over him,” said Monfils, who has lost 11 of 13 career matches against Nadal. “To beat him, I need to take many risks, and I need to have some luck.”

At least Monfils will be fresh, having eased past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 6-3 in an all-French semifinal, breaking Tsonga’s serve six times in less than half the time Nadal spent turning the table on Murray.

The last French player to win here was Cedric Pioline in 2000 – who was also the last French finalist – and Monfils is even more of an outsider considering he is 0-4 against Nadal on clay.

The 29-year-olds first played each other 11 years ago, and that was also at Monte Carlo – with Nadal beating Monfils in the second round – and their last meeting on clay was a quarterfinal win for Nadal in Barcelona in 2011.

For Murray, meanwhile, it was a missed opportunity to become the first British player in the final in 56 years, and to beat Nadal for only the second time on clay – having routed him 6-3, 6-2 in the Madrid Masters final last year.

“I missed some shots, but you have to take chances against the best players,” Murray said. “If you don’t do that, you’re going to lose anyway.”

Murray dominated on his serve – and pressured Nadal’s – throughout the first set, using his drop shot effectively. But Nadal broke Murray to start the second set on his way to a third win against Murray in a semifinal here.

The Spaniard found his serving range in the deciding set, twice holding at love and eventually clinching victory on his fifth match point.

After eight straight titles, Nadal lost the final here to Djokovic in 2013. He has not won a tournament since Hamburg last August while his last final was in January, losing to Djokovic in Doha.

Some tension showed as he served for the match – with a full 10 minutes between his first match point and his successful fifth.

He got the win when Murray’s forehand swipe hit the net. Nadal improved to 17-6 in career meetings against Murray and 7-1 on clay.

Murray lost to Nadal in the semifinals here in 2009 and 2011 when the Spaniard was the undisputed world’s best on clay. But Nadal has since proven vulnerable, and the nine-time French Open champion relinquished his Roland Garros title last year.

Murray broke to lead 4-2 in the first set, and a superb drop shot gave him set point, which he clinched when Nadal netted a forehand.

The major turning point came when Nadal broke for 4-3 after Murray missed an easy smash at the net, allowing Nadal to pass him down the line.

Nadal then saved two break points in the next game to lead 5-3 as the players thrilled the crowd with some spectacular rallies.

After Nadal served out the second set, during which Murray got only 39 percent of his first serves in, the Spaniard broke him again at the start of the deciding set with an exquisite drop shot. Nadal stopped playing momentarily after dirt got in his eye.

“I didn’t want to stop when Andy was serving because (it) is not fair,” Nadal said. “But every time it was bothering me more and more and I was losing little bit of the vision, so I had to go to the chair and put some water (in my eye).”

Trailing 3-1, Murray’s composure wilted in the sunshine as he remonstrated several times with the chair umpire.

Gilbert Klier Junior hit with 12-month doping ban

Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida /USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

LONDON — Brazilian Gilbert Klier Junior, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympics, has been banned for 12 months in a doping case, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said.

The ITIA said it had accepted that Klier Junior had not deliberately doped and that the banned substance SARM S-22 had entered his body through a contaminated supplement. However, it said he bore some responsibility, especially “following other high profile cases involving Brazilian tennis players and other sports people.”

The 22-year-old Klier Junior has a career high ranking of 354th and won bronze in the singles event at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

The ban was backdated to start from last June, when Klier Junior was first suspended from competition while the case was resolved.

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images
1 Comment

Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.