Rafael Nadal probably didn’t need to get a beneficial call but he got one today in the Monte Carlo semifinals. The 9-time tournament champion was down early to the hot-handed David Goffin who held 3-2 with a game point when a Rafa backhand went long but the chair ump overruled. While the ump confirmed the out call (pointing to the wrong mark), the hawkeye system showed Nadal’s shot was long but review is not used on clay. Oops!
So upon replay, Nadal won the point to get back on serve at 3-3 and then cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 victory winning 10 of the last 11 games.
“I imagine the ball was out but I was on the other side, I could not see the mark,” said Nadal.
Added Goffin on the call, “It’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
And Goffin’s right, it was wrong. It was a crap call. But had Nadal not got that call and Goffin were to have gone up 4-2, would the Belgian really have won the match? Still unlikely. Again, it was early in the first set, not late in the third.
The Belgian, though, should be pleased with his week beating two top 10 players in Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.
“It was a beautiful tournament. I gave it my all. I’m very satisfied with what I achieved against the best players in the world on a surface that I like. It’s only positive,” said Goffin. “I have to keep working in that direction. I think I improved this week and I know now that I can have high ambitions.”
In his 11th Monte Carlo final, Nadal will play fellow Spanish lefty Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The 29-year-old ARV took out Lucas Pouille 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 to reach his first career Masters final. The Frenchman Pouille was hobbled by a back injury late in the match, but credit to ARV who won his third straight 3-set match after wins over Andy Murray and Marin Cilic.
“I improved my tennis a little, my backhand a little bit,” said Ramos-Vinolas. “I improved my physical condition. I improved a little bit my mental condition. I also have more confidence. I think there are a lot of things that are going better. It helps me get better results than before.
“I think everything started in reaching the Roland Garros quarterfinals last year. I think for sure it gave me more confidence. I think since then, over the past year, I’ve been playing better. After I won a tournament on clay court. In South America, two months ago, I made a final, two semifinals and one quarterfinal. Last week also a quarterfinal. Here a final. The results are getting better.”
Nadal is going to be the big favorite in the final. Rafa’s also trying to win a title for a 10th time for the first time in his career.
“It’s tough to believe that I’m in a final again here,” Nadal said. “It’s unbelievable news for me. It’s another great event. Having all these great results since the beginning of the season allows me to still have a position in the top eight. That’s a very important thing for me.
“I’m able to start the clay-court season playing a final in one of the most important events of the year. It’s a very special place for me and this is something that makes me feel very happy. Very excited about it.
Nadal has won both prior meetings against ARV, both in straights in Barcelona.
“Albert’s playing better than ever,” assessed Nadal. “He’s winning huge matches during the whole week. He’s playing with big confidence, with great spirit and fight, overcoming tough situations in every match and playing a high level of tennis all the time. I know that I need to be at my best to keep having chances, to fight for another title here. That’s what I am looking for.”
Rafa hasn’t won a title since Barcelona almost a year ago. So this is a huge match for him and if it gets close let’s see how he handles the nerves — remember we thought he’d get through Sam Querrey in Acapulco.
Querrey has a serve while Ramos-Vinolas, for a guy 6-foot-2, doesn’t get much pop on his. And Nadal’s played pretty well all week, so if he can manage the nerves and the expectations like he used to do, I expect this to go straights tomorrow.
SUNDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III start 11:30 am
R. Bopanna (IND) / P. Cuevas (URU) vs  F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP)
Not Before 2:30 pm
 A. Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) d  R. Nadal (ESP)
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