Nadal downs Tomic ahead of Mon­fils clash

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY SCOTT WIL­LIAMS

Top seed Rafael Nadal and Gael Mon­fils both strug­gled on their least­fa­vorite sur­face Fri­day be­fore set­ting up a semi­fi­nal at the first edi­tion of the Stuttgart Open to be played on grass.

The for­mer July clay-court tour­na­ment is now part of the three-week run-up to Wim­ble­don af­ter be­ing ap­proached three years ago to con­sider mak­ing the change of sur­face and date. Nadal needed al­most two and a half hours to de­feat fifth seed Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, beat­ing the Aus­tralian for the third time as they played on grass for the first time.

The Spa­niard has taken six sets and al­most five hours on court to win two matches as he strug­gles to make the switch of sur­faces.

He could have been home a win­ner in straight sets af­ter go­ing up a break in the sec­ond set and again hold­ing a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker even­tu­ally won by Tomic, who saved a Nadal match point with an ace.

Nadal moved through to victory but only af­ter sav­ing two break points in the sev­enth game of the third set and com­ing through on his sec­ond match point a game later.

De­spite his hard slog, Nadal is con­fi­dent with his game ahead of Wim­ble­don and af­ter a poor clay sea­son where he was de­throned as French Open cham­pion.“I’m feel­ing strong and I’m mo­ti­vated, I hope to have a good sec­ond half of the sea­son. I played well to­day. It was a good match for me,” said Nadal.

“I had a great first set and in the sec­ond he played well. My game was at a good level, I’m happy with how I han­dled things. It was a very pos­i­tive win, a good one for me.”

Mon­fils fired 17 aces in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 quar­ter­fi­nal victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber.“Gael is a tough op­po­nent,” said Nadal. “If you don’t play your best you are not go­ing to win.

“I guar­an­tee I’ll be fight­ing to be in the fi­nal.”

Mon­fils struck for his 10th win over Kohlschreiber against just two losses — the Ger­man won their grass-court semi­fi­nal in Halle in 2011 and also put out Mon­fils on the Stuttgart clay in 2013. The French­man got off to an early break of serve in the third set to en­sure victory af­ter just un­der two hours on court in tem­per­a­tures of 30 Cel­sius.

“I had some good luck to­day, I tried to play ag­gres­sive on re­turns and stick to a sim­ple game plan,” said Mon­fils, who ad­mits that he will never put grass at the top of his fa­vorite sur­face list.

“I know the grass now but I came here know­ing that I had to work. Play­ing on this sur­face is never easy for me. “My main goal is to keep from get­ting in­jured and try to do my best. If I can win some matches, that’s even bet­ter.

“I’d like to win more matches on grass, but even that won’t help me to like it, ac­tu­ally.”

Mon­fils was also con­cerned about a pos­si­ble groin in­jury, for which he was re­ceiv­ing post-match treat­ment.

The sec­ond semi­fi­nal will be played be­tween U.S. Open win­ner Marin Cilic, who beat Ger­man qual­i­fier Mis­cha Zverev 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5) and Serb eighth seed Vik­tor Troicki, a win­ner over Aus­tralian Sam Groth 7-6 (7/3), 6-1.

AP

Spain’s Rafael Nadal re­turns a ball to Australia’s Bernard Tomic, dur­ing the quar­ter­fi­nal match at the Mercedes Cup ATP ten­nis tour­na­ment in Stuttgart, Ger­many on Fri­day, June 12.

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