Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori ATP Monte-Carlo tennis preview, predictions and tips: Nadal targets 11th Monte-Carlo title against resurgent Nishikori

Andrew Hendrie in ATP 22 Apr 2018
  • Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori is live from Monte-Carlo at 2.30pm local time on Sunday (1.30pm BST)
  • Nadal has won nine of their 11 previous meetings
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Monte-Carlo online at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Rafael Nadal (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal will attempt to secure a record 11th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title and retain his No. 1 ranking for another week when he faces the resurgent Kei Nishikori in the final on Sunday.

Watch and bet on Nadal vs Nishikori live from Monte-Carlo online at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify). The final begins at 2.30pm local time on Sunday (1.30pm BST).

Dominant and more intimidating than ever, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal targets an 11th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title on Sunday against the unseeded but back-to-form Kei Nishikori. Nadal has once again cruised into the Monte-Carlo final without dropping a set - the sixth time he has achieved that feat - while he also takes a 34-set winning steak on clay into the title match, which is a personal record. Looking unstoppable once more, can Nishikori - who is the first Japanese player to make the Monte-Carlo final - produce the performance of his life to take out the Spanish superstar and claim a maiden Masters 1000 crown? Nadal and Nishikori take to court at 2.30pm local time on Sunday (1.30pm BST).

No matter what seems to happen regarding injuries in Nadal’s career, the Spaniard always seems to return to fitness and form for the European clay season - and the start of 2018 has been no different. Playing his first tournament since retiring with a hip injury in the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, Nadal has been at his vintage best from the outset, sailing into the 12th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final of his career without dropping a set. Furthermore, Nadal is shattering personal records this week, winning 34 straight sets on clay from the first round of Roland Garros R1 in 2017 to the semi-finals of Monte-Carlo on Saturday.

Even more incredibly, Nadal hasn’t dropped more than four games in any of those 34 sets, which is truly staggering and might not be eclipsed again in our lifetime. The 10-time Monte-Carlo champion began his campaign with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Aljaz Bedene and a 6-3 6-2 triumph over Karen Khachanov before making his first big statement of this year’s clay season, absolutely demolishing Dominic Thiem - who has been the clear second-best player on clay over the last 12 months - by a ruthless 6-0 6-2 scoreline. Nadal was tested for the first time in his semi-final clash with Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday, with the Bulgarian recovering from a 0-3 deficit in the opening set to level and take the score to 4-4, but Nadal raised his level and won eight of the next nine games to emerge victorious. Nadal certainly wasn’t at his best, but in the end he still cruised and dropped only five games to what was an inspired opponent. Scary stuff…

“I think I played solid,” said Nadal. “It had been a very hard first set until the 4-all. A lot of tough games. Yes, I made a big mistake at 3-1, I played a very bad game. Then he came back… I really had a lot of chances in the first set. I was little bit lucky he hit two double-faults at 4-5, and one missed with the forehand. That gave me the advantage and then [I played] a good point to finish the first set. In the second, I think he started to miss more. He missed more than usual. I was solid there. That's all.”


Improving his record in Monte-Carlo to 67-4 and into a Masters 1000 final for the 14th consecutive season, Nadal will be looking to overtake Novak Djokovic and win a record 31st Masters 1000 title on Sunday. After making history in Monte-Carlo 12 months ago by becoming the first man to win 10 titles at a single tournament, Nadal is now aiming to win the Monte-Carlo crown for an 11th time. The 17-time Grand Slam champion, who bounced back to top form in 2017 by winning the French and U.S. Open titles, will also hold onto his No. 1 ranking for another week if he wins the final. Roger Federer will reclaim top spot should Kei Nishikori produce the unthinkable.

Kei Nishikori (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Playing the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for just the second time in his career this week, Nishikori has enjoyed a brilliant and resurgent week in order to reach the fourth ATP Masters 1000 final of his career. Unseeded and not benefitting from an opening round bye, Nishikori has battled through four titanic three-set battles against Tomas Berdych, Andreas Seppi, Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev, while he also took out Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the second round.

It should come as no surprise that Nishikori is coming out on the winning side of these three-set showdowns - he has the greatest deciding-set record in the Open Era, leading a top five of Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal with a 76 per cent winning percentage. The 28-year-old’s superb run in Monte-Carlo continued on Saturday when he knocked out Miami Masters runner-up Alexander Zverev, coming from behind to emerge triumphant by a 3-6 6-3 6-4 scoreline in two hours and 13 minutes. The win means Nishikori is the first Japanese player to make the Monte-Carlo final since the tournament was first played all the way back in 1897.

"I always enjoy playing this tournament," said Nishikori. “It's a great place to play tennis. I'm happy to be back in final of a [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 again. It's been long time for me. Hopefully I can have another good day tomorrow."

Nishikori, who finished runner-up at the 2014 U.S. Open, has been at finalist at three Masters 1000 events in his career, including 2014 in Madrid (lost to Nadal) and 2016 in Miami and Canada, losing to Djokovic on both occasions. Nishikori was forced to shut down his season in August last year due to a wrist injury (he’s been shaking out his wrist all week in Monte-Carlo), with his ranking dropping to as low as No. 39 earlier this month after his comeback (which started on the Challenger Tour in January) failed to pick up much steam. However, due to his big run here in Monte-Carlo, Nishikori will climb back up to No. 22 in the world in the rankings on Monday - and as high as No. 11 if he can spring a monumental upset and win the title.

Nadal has won nine of their 11 previous meetings, including two clay finals in Madrid (2014) and Barcelona (2016). Nishikori did push Nadal in both of those matches however, taking the first set in Madrid before a back injury forced him to retire, while the Barcelona final was decided by a tight 6-4 7-5 scoreline. Nishikori also won their last encounter, prevailing 6-2 6-7(1) 6-3 to win the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But all signs point to another Nadal victory on Sunday. The Spaniard has been winning all his matches quickly and convincingly, while Nishikori has been shaking out his wrist in four three-set marathons all week. Nadal should be able to wear down Nishikori from the baseline with his punishing topspin forehand, making it only a matter of time before the Japanese star’s resistance fades. Expect another straight sets win and an 11th Monte-Carlo title for the King of Clay on Sunday.



Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis is live from 2.30pm local time/1.30pm BST on Sunday.

Watch & bet on the final live online at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)


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Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori ATP Monte-Carlo tennis preview, predictions and tips: Nadal targets 11th Monte-Carlo title against resurgent Nishikori

Rafael Nadal will attempt to secure a record 11th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title and retain his No. 1 ranking for another week when he faces the resurgent Kei Nishikori in the final on Sunday.

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