Nadal advances to Monte-Carlo semifinals

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during his quarter final match against Guido Pella of Argentina at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, April 19, 2019. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

ROQUEBRUNE-CAP-MARTIN, FRANCE.- Spain’s Rafael Nadal was pushed hard here Friday by Guido Pella of Argentina, but managed to eke out a 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 win to secure a berth in the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Masters, an event he has won 11 times.

Nadal avoided joining the list of favorites who have been upset in the 2019 edition of the clay-court tourney, including Dominik Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who lost earlier Friday to Daniil Medvedev.

In a match that lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours, the Spaniard had to extend himself to defeat a solid, energetic Pella who is having the best season of his career, winning the Sao Paulo title and reaching the final at Cordoba.

In their one previous meeting, at last year’s French Open, Pella took only four games in a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 victory for Nadal en route to Rafa’s record-extending 11th title at Roland Garros.

But Nadal found himself facing a different Pella here Friday.

The world No. 2 struggled to hold serve and trailed 4-1 before rebounding to take a 5-4 lead.

Pella, making his first quarterfinal appearance at a Masters 1000 tourney, refused to throw in the towel and managed to hold serve to level the set at 5-5 and went on to grab another service break to take a 6-5 lead.

The surge fell short and Nadal was able to force a tiebreak that the Spaniard won easily.

Undaunted, Pella battled back from 5-1 in the second set to narrow the deficit to 5-3, but the 17-time Grand Slam champion took the next game sealed the match on Pella’s serve after two hours and 21 minutes of play.

«It was a very tough match,» Nadal said afterward. «Luckily I was able to come back in the first set. If he had gone 5-1 it may have been almost impossible.

«It was a physically and mentally draining set, especially losing my first three service games,» he said. «I was lucky to escape, I’m happy to be through.»

«Reaching the semi-final again means a lot to me, I hope this win will help me,» Nadal said.

Next up for Nadal will be Italy’s Fabio Fognini, who defeated Borna Coric of Croatia 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The Italian has won only three of 14 matches against Nadal.

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