Rafael Nadal makes narrow escape against Bulgaria’s Dimitrov at Monte-Carlo Masters
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov came close to scoring a resounding upset in his Monte-Carlo Masters quarterfinal against eight-time defending champion Rafael Nadal on April 19, but fell to a perfectly-timed surge in the final set.
Dimitrov, ranked 34th in the world and still seeking his first ATP Tour title, played one of his best career matches, finding his legs after a shaky start to give Nadal his first serious test in the tournament.
It was only the second career meetings between the two players, but Dimitrov once again proved himself a difficult opponent for Nadal. In their previous meeting, at the Rotterdam Open in 2009, fresh-faced Dimitrov, in one of his first matches in an ATP tournament after turning professional, took then-world number one to three sets as well.
Nadal, now ranked fifth in the world after a seven-month injury lay-off, started the match clearly better, taking the first set 6-2, but any notion that he would cruise through for another win would soon be dispelled.
Dimitrov showed no signs of breaking down after the early setback, breaking Nadal’s service twice – including a comeback from 40-0 down as the Spaniard served to stay in the set – to win the second set 6-2.
Nadal’s strong play on his own serve appeared to desert him in the second set, but he recovered in the decisive one, giving Dimitrov no opening to break serve, yet finding none himself.
Dimitrov, for his part, appeared to relish the occasion – unlike in previous matches against top-ranked opponents, when he would seem to deflate after a strong start. His spectacular volleys earned him more than one round of applause from the public on the Court Central.
With the score tied at 4-4 in the decisive set and Dimitrov suffering from a cramp, Nadal struck to break his opponent’s serve. Nevertheless, Dimitrov refused to go down quietly, saving one match point before Nadal closed out with his second ace of the afternoon.
Nadal’s streak of consecutive wins at Monte-Carlo now stands at 45 matches, his only defeat coming during his debut appearance in 2003, when he lost to Guillermo Coria in the third round. The Spaniard already holds the ATP Tour record for the most consecutive titles at the same tournament, having won the Monte-Carlo Masters for eight straight years and still in the running for a ninth title.