Nadal passes tough test vs Dimitrov to reach Monte Carlo Masters semifinals; will play Tsonga

Published April 19, 2013

| Associated Press

Rafael Nadal defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 Friday to win his 45th straight match at the Monte Carlo Masters and reach the semifinals.

Nadal will meet sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The Spaniard dropped only his third set in his last five tournaments here, the previous times against Andy Murray in the 2011 semifinals and Novak Djokovic in the 2009 final. He was under pressure at 30-30 in the eighth game of the final set before hitting a crucial serve.

The eight-time defending champion sealed victory on his second match point with an ace, after Dimitrov saved the first one with a forehand winner of astonishing power from the back of the court. It was even more impressive because he was struggling with a leg cramp.

As age17, Dimitrov took a set off Nadal at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands. On Friday, he thrilled the center-court crowd with a superb display of attacking tennis punctuated by exquisite drop shots and high-speed winners off both backhand and forehand.

By regularly taking the ball early, Dimitrov unsettled Nadal's rhythm and the seven-time French Open champion was unable to dictate play.

After more than two hours of an intense contest, Dimitrov was limping, flexing his right leg and rubbing his left thigh.

Wawrinka, who defeated second-seeded Murray on Thursday, looked to be on the way to another clinical win as he held to love to win the first set, clinching it with an ace on second serve.

But Tsonga took a 4-1 lead in the second set, and tied the match after saving two break points.

Tsonga got the crucial break in the third set with a forehand pass down line and held for 5-3.

Wawrinka saved three match points in his next service game before Tsonga sealed the victory with an ace to reach his second semifinal of the season. His only title this year was in Marseille in February.

Later Friday, the top-ranked Djokovic will play Jarkko Nieminen of Finland and seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet of France will face Fabio Fognini of Italy.

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