So far this clay red clay season, the main guys at the top are in terrific if not terrifying form. Today in third round play at the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters, Rafael Nadal easily took care of Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-4 while Roger Federer went an extra going needing 6-3, 6-4 verdict to beat Marin Cilic.
“I’m very happy how I played today,” said Nadal after collecting his 34th straight win at Monte Carlo. “I think I played much better than yesterday, easier. In general, I think [it] was a very positive victory against a very difficult opponent.”
Nadal now moves on to match against Ivan Ljubicic, who pulled a minor upset beating Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2.
“He’s a very experienced player,” Nadal said of Ljubicic. “He played well against Berdych. [I] saw him play in the locker room. It’s going to be a really difficult match tomorrow. I have to play like today if I want to have chances, and that’s what I’m going to try.”
Really difficult? I don’t think so Rafa. Ljubicic did beat the lefty the last time they played at Indian Wells last year, but Nadal should cruise tomorrow.
Another lefty, Jurgen Melzer, will have the spotlight Friday as he takes on Federer. Melzer who once reached the French Open semifinals (yeah, it was last year but it seems much longer ago), has never taken a set of the Swiss in three matches and the way Federer’s playing an upset appears unlikely.
“Today was another solid performance, which I’m very happy about,” said Federer after his win over Cilic. “He actually played a solid match except one game in the end of the first set where he made some mistakes unfortunately. Fortunate for me. But I think we were both really solid until that point on the serve. And in the second set, I was able to have one good return game, which was able to surprise him with a few quick returns. I took advantage of that there.”
With two wins, it’s already been a big week for Andy Murray. The Scot who went two months without a victory, scored his second in Monte Carlo defeating an injured Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-3. It was a tough, long first set until Simon twisted his ankle. Murray promptly seized control and the match was effectively over.
“I wasn’t bothered at all [about playing an injured player],” said Murray. “I was doing what I had to do to win the match as quickly and efficiently as possible. It worked. So I know every single player on the tour would have done exactly the same thing.”
The Scot elicited some boos from the crowd for dropshotting the hobbled Simon, but I agree with Murray, you are there to win the match at call costs and he did just that. Simon also agreed with the tactic.
Murray now meets qualifier Federico Gil who upset my man Gael Monfils 7-6, 6-2. The two played some incredible, long, physical points and if Gil can play that way against Murray he’s got a very real shot. Gil and Murray have never played and i really give the guy from Portugal a good chance, but I’ll stick with Murray and his renewed confidence, although Murray usually doesn’t fare well post-controversy (post booing in this case).
“We played a little bit in the juniors around the same time,” Murray said of Gil. “He’s a couple of years older than me. Then when I was over training in Spain, we were playing some futures tournaments together. I practiced with him a few times. I watched his match today, as much as I could. Obviously, clay court is his best surface. It will be a tough match, but definitely think I can win.”
In the early quarterfinal, David Ferrer, who dusted Milos Raonic 6-1, 6-3 will play Viktor Troicki. The way Ferrer has been rolling I’m looking forward to a match between him and Federer on Saturday.
It’s another early start Friday in Monte Carlo. With matches beginning at 10:30am and over by 5pm local time, Monte Carlo has to be one of the earliest finishing “big” tournaments on the calendar! Tennis Channel has all the coverage, if you are in the U.S. set your alarms early or you’ll miss all the coverage.
FRIDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
 V Troicki (SRB) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 11:30 AM
 J Melzer (AUT) vs  R Federer (SUI)
Not Before 1:30 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs I Ljubicic (CRO)
 [WC] A Murray (GBR) vs [Q] F Gil (POR)
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