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Rafael Nadal Already Looking Dominant On Clay, Faces Dimitrov on Thursday In Monte-Carlo Rolex Tennis

Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during his secound round match against Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, 17 April 2019. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER


By Ricky Dimon


Even if you’re not Rafael Nadal, the door to this clay-court swing might not be entirely shut. At the same time, though, it’s not exactly open.


Other contenders may have some hope given that Nadal is 32 years old and coming off another knee injury, but he sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the field on Wednesday: “I’m still the man to beat on clay…. And you probably won’t be able to do it.” The world No. 2 destroyed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-1 in his first match at the Monte-Carlo Masters, requiring only one hour and 16 minutes to advance.


“This is just the first match,” Nadal cautioned. [It was] a very positive start. The result says that. And the feeling on court, too…. I just started well. It’s the first match in almost a year on this surface. But, of course, a start like this helps.”


Next up for the Spaniard is Grigor Dimitrov, and they will be facing each other for the 13th time in their careers. The head-to-head series stands at a dominant 11-1 in favor of Nadal, who has predictably won all four of their clay-court meetings–including two at this Monte-Carlo event. In fact, their most recent encounter came in MC just last year, when Nadal dominated a semifinal affair 6-4, 6-1.


Following his latest win over Dimitrov, Nadal defeated Kei Nishikori for his 11th Monte-Carlo title. A 12th triumph may not be far away, and Dimitrov probably wouldn’t be the one to prevent it. Dimitrov has struggled over the past 15 months, sliding to 28th in the rankings.


“Tomorrow is another good test against Grigor,” Nadal assured. So let’s see. I need to play well again.”


Speaking of needing to play well, a slumping Alexander Zverev beat a red-hot Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-4 on Wednesday. Zverev will now battle Fabio Fognini for a place in the quarterfinals. Fognini, who made a miraculous comeback against qualifier Andrey Rublev in his opening match, got a walkover from Fabio Fognini in round two.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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