At the ATP Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2021 happened the impossible: Andrey Rublev beat Rafael Nadal to got the quarterfinals of the Masters 1000 on clay-courts. And we have to recall that Nadal has played about five hundred games on clay.
Nadal, on clay, won 91% of the time. After a disconcerting first set, and a sensational comeback during the second, the Spanish champion cannot find the physical and nervous energy to break the balance in the final rush. Rather.
The final rush turns out to be a completely necessary theater. Andrey Rublev grabs the most prestigious victory in his career (if only over red) with a very rocky 6-2 4-6 6-2 and for the second time in his career hooks a category semifinal.
And to think that it could have even ended 6-2 6-2. Casper Ruud will be waiting for him. Fourteen unforced errors and five double faults. Numbers that Nadal, if only on red, tends to accumulate over the course of a week. Not in a set.
The Spanish champion recovers (to zero) a break from behind and survives a grueling arm wrestling on the right diagonal at 2-2 30-40. Little else. Rublev takes advantage of the situation in a practically perfect way and takes a seat on 5-2 without particular difficulties.
Without particular difficulties he also cancels a ball for 5-3 and at the first useful opportunity he closes the accounts. The situation is absolutely unprecedented. With a third round of serving with a red pencil - seasoned needless to say by another double mistake - the Majorcan finds himself in the role of prey also in the second set.
ATP Monte-Carlo 2021: Rublev beat Rafael Nadal to got the quarters!
Angered by a mediocre performance and bad feelings during prolonged exchanges (especially with the backhand) the worst Nadal ever, on red, struggles to hide his frustration.
A paradox. Rublev defends himself to the advantages in the second game and then pushes himself to 3-1, canceling, among other things, a break point. The Majorcan step by step somehow manages to build a defense, to limit the number of unforced errors and to find a minimum of quality with the forehand and the serve available.
He permits the reaction. Rublev, called for the first time to roll up his sleeves, cancels at 3-2 four chances for the break and even gets one in the next game to complete the masterpiece. Nadal remains in some way tied to the score, takes advantage of a double fault at 4-3 40-40 and thanks to a defense-masterpiece (which he completes with a splendid solution of forehand in the race) he somehow regroups the score and even puts the head forward.
After coming close to winning on more and more occasions, Rublev finds himself chasing for the first time. Needless to say, he slips to 0-40 and cancels only two of the three chances for 6-4. Called to serve to put his head forward, needless to say for the first time in the match, "Rafa" makes two rather gross mistakes with the forehand and jams near the net at 15-30.
He immediately recovers the break from the disadvantage, but cannot find continuity on serve and evidently not even to send a signal. Especially from a mental point of view. Rublev is the first to break the trend and extend to 3-1.
And as in the logic of things - with a Nadal completely out of energy - to drag on 5-1 and to close at the first useful opportunity after almost three hours of struggle.