After nearly a year, Rafael Nadal is back into a Masters 1000 final.
Perhaps fittingly, the match that got him there took a while, but over the course of nearly three hours , Nadal weathered the storm of fantastic play from Andy Murray before defeating the second ranked player in the world, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to his 10th final in Monte-Carlo.
Murray looked poised to pull the upset (given the surface, Nadal was the favorite despite the rankings) after submitting his best set of tennis all year, aggressively attacking with flat, booming backhands and threatening to break in every Nadal service game. However, the 8-time champion hung in long enough for Murray’s level to drop. Murray has to focus extremely hard to play with that aggression, as he lacks the forehand power of his Big Four brethren and he is an instinctually defensive player.
Eventually the strain became too much and it manifested in more errors, a dramatic decline in first serve percentage and a visibly cranky Murray arguing with the chair umpire over multiple issues (Nadal too had chirped at the ump earlier in the match). Nadal opened the third with a break and pulled away for the win, putting him in the 100th final of his career, making him the sixth man in history to pull off the feat. He also ties Roger Federer’s record of 42 Masters 1000 finals.
He’ll be the heavy favorite in Sunday’s final against fan favorite Gael Monfils, who dispatched Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 6-3 in a routine blowout. Tsonga was flat a day after upsetting Roger Federer and could not keep his shots in the court. A composed Monfils took advantage to make his first Masters 1000 final since 2010.
Nadal leads their career head-to-head 11-2, including 4-0 on clay, all in straight sets.