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Nadal vs Fognini tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Nadal targets a thirteenth Monte-Carlo Masters final

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 19 Apr 2019
  • Rafael Nadal faces Fabio Fognini in the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
  • Nadal vs Fognini is live from the Monte-Carlo Masters on Saturday at 3.30pm local/2.30pm BST
Rafael Nadal (PA Sport)

You never know what to expect from Fabio Fognini – but can even the mercurial talent stop Rafael Nadal’s remorseless progress at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters?

Rafael Nadal continues to close in on an incredible twelfth Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title as he faces Fabio Fognini for a place in the final on Saturday.

Nadal always looked like the favourite to win the tournament at which he has a phenomenal 68-4 record and came into the 2019 edition on a 15-match winning streak stretching back to his loss to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals in 2015. But with the shock defeat of Djokovic by Daniil Medvedev in Friday’ quarterfinals, it’s become almost impossible to imagine a scenario – good as the other three players left in the tournament are – in which Nadal won’t be the one lifting the trophy on Sunday. And what a tone that would set for the clay-court season and the French Open.

Rafael Nadal shows his frustration as he plays against Guido Pella (PA Sport)
But this is getting ahead of oneself, not something Nadal can ever be accused of, and as if to hammer home the point that the remaining matches are, despite appearances, more than formalities, Nadal had a harder time of it against Guido Pella in Friday’s quarterfinals than expected. Pella had been totally crushed by Nadal in previous meetings, but the talented Argentine had ousted seventh seed Marin Cilic and 11th seed Marco Cecchinato to make it to his first Masters 1000 Series quarterfinal and he punished Nadal for a sloppy first set (although not enough to actually take it from him). Pella would break Nadal in all of his first three service games, and although he handed the first break back, he had built a seemingly assailable 4-1 double-break lead.

Nadal surged back in his inimitable fashion, winning the next four games in a row, but at 5-5, a forehand error cost him a fourth break of the set and Pella would serve for it. The Argentine was unable to close it out, however, and Nadal raised his level significantly in the tie-break, allowing Pella just one point as he took a 7-6(1) lead. 

It wasn’t all plain sailing from there, though. Nadal did break immediately in the second set, but Pella had four chances to break back in a fourth game that lasted over 12 minutes before Nadal eventually held for 3-1, and Nadal dropped serve when trying to close out the match, before finally doing so on his opponent’s serve after a competitive 142 minutes (coincidentally, the same time that it took Djokovic to lose in three sets to Medvedev).

‘It was a very tough first set physically and mentally, too. Losing the first three games with my serve was tough. But I found a way at the right time,’ Nadal said. 

‘I was lucky at 4-1, he had two points to be 5-1 and with 5-1 it's almost impossible. I was lucky to escape that moment and then I played better... I'm very happy to be through. Being in the semi-finals again here means a lot to me.’

Nadal is now on an 18-match winning streak at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, and as tested as he was – surrendering four breaks in a single set – he hasn’t dropped a set since he lost the second set against Kyle Edmund in the second set in 2017, which means he is on a 25-set winning streak.

Will Fabio Fognini be the one to break that streak?

The Italian is certainly capable of it – Fognini has beaten Nadal three times in their previous 14 encounters, twice on clay in 2015 and at the US Open later the same year, when he inflicted Nadal’s first ever defeat from two sets up. 

Fabio Fognini (PA Sport)
But the omens for Fognini being able to do the same thing this time aren’t particularly favourable. 

A semifinalist at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2013, there were no particular signs coming into this year’s event that Fognini was ready to repeat the run. The 31-year-old made four ATP Tour finals in 2018, winning three of them, and had a number of other good results, but coming into the first clay-court Masters 1000 Series event of 2019, he was 4-8 on the season so far, having won back-to-back matches at just one event out of eight – at the Australian Open, where he reached the third round. Fognini failed to win a single match on the Golden Swing, where he was defending a Sao Paulo title and Rio de Janeiro semifinal, and only won one match in six events after Melbourne.

Fognini narrowly survived an exciting first-round clash with the talented qualifier Andrey Rublev in three sets, with the Russian leading 6-4, 4-1 before Fognini came back to win in three, but his reward was a significant one – a second-round walkover from Gilles Simon, whom Fognini had never beaten. Fognini went on to stun third seed Alexander Zverev 7-6(6), 6-1, but against ninth seed Borna Coric in the quarterfinals on Friday, the Italian was completely outplayed in the first set and trailed 1-6. With his right arm heavily bandaged, he looked like he might not even last the match. But with the help of the crowd’s passionate support (and at times, equally passionate jeering) Fognini turned things around, playing some exquisite tennis to get the win 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Truly, one never knows what’s coming from Fabio Fognini and when the world no. 18 plays like he did against Coric (in the second and third sets, anyway) it’s hard to see how he ever loses, so casually lethal is his shotmaking. But the heavy bandaging on his arm is a concern – it’s the last thing you want to carry into a match with Nadal – and while Fognini has scored some big wins over the Spaniard, Nadal has won their last six matches against each other, including three on clay. Fognini did take sets from Nadal in their last two clay-court matches, but I don’t think he will this time, even with the crowd perhaps behind him. Expect Nadal to stretch his set-winning streak to 27 as he books his place in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters semifinal once more. 

Nadal vs Fognini Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis is live on Saturday at 3.30pm local/2.30pm BST

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Nadal vs Fognini tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Nadal targets a thirteenth Monte-Carlo Masters final

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