Rafael Nadal has surged on in pursuit of a seventh consecutive title in Monte Carlo, defeating Ivan Ljubicic 6-1, 6-3 and setting up a semi final meeting with Andy Murray who has now won three consecutive matches after ending a career worst losing streak.
The opening three games of Nadal’a match with Ljubicic were not particularly high quality as both players struggled to adjust to the gusty conditions. Nadal broke in the opening game. Ljubicic broke back when a cranky Rafa failed to get a first serve. Nadal broke again and from there on it was the Spanish world number one who adjusted better to the conditions, Ivan struggling to control his main weapon – his serve.
The King of Clay was the first to hold serve and quickly accelerate to a one set lead, only allowing Ljubicic the one game.
As Rafa sealed the set his girlfriend Xisca Perello, always seated next to his mother Ana Maria, waved to the camera. (Image from Vamos Brigade)
It quickly became clear that Ljubicic was resigned to his fate as the conditions continued to adversely affect his game as Nadal seemed to play comfortably on his beloved red dirt.
It was a less than brilliant match from Ljubicic who seemed a little less than inspired during the course of the match while Nadal appeared irritated by his errors and keen to get the job done as fast as possible. Ultimately the Spaniard was happy with his performance in the difficult conditions.
“I’m very happy about the victory. That’s the truth. Winning 6-1, 6-3 against a difficult player, he was playing well during all this tournament, is a positive result. It was a very difficult day to play tennis. A lot of wind, changing directions the wind all the time. In general, I didn’t have mistakes. After the two first games, especially after the second one, I didn’t have mistakes until the second set.
Interestingly Andy Murray apparently beat Rafa in practice earlier in the week and is using it to bolster his confidence going into their semifinal which is scheduled to be played later this today.
“I know practice isn’t the only thing that matters but there are not many people who would beat Rafa in practice. That’s not to say you’ll win against him in a match but it helps when you are with those guys to know you’re not that far behind them and even though they’re playing great tennis right now, you can compete with them.”