Rafael Nadal goes up a gear in search of 11th Monte Carlo title

Rafael Nadal has won 10 Monte Carlo titles and looks like he is about to add an 11th.
Updated 20 April 2018
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Rafael Nadal goes up a gear in search of 11th Monte Carlo title

  • Nadal looks back to his very best on the claycourts he loves.
  • Monte Carlo serves as great preparation for the French Open next month.

Rafael Nadal crushed fifth seed Dominic Thiem 6-0, 6-2 to romp into the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Friday as he stepped up his bid for an 11th title in the principality in style.
A tight match had been anticipated, but Nadal produced one of the most dominant wins of his career as Thiem fell to pieces in the Monaco sunshine.
The Austrian didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 10th game, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
But it was a ruthless performance from the 16-time Grand Slam champion, who has to successfully defend the title this week to remain ahead of Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings.
“Here I think I played great ... Have been a great day for me, and a very good result against a very difficult rival,” said Nadal.
The Spaniard is now just two wins away from a record 31st Masters title, after winning 32 consecutive sets on clay.
Nadal will face Grigor Dimitrov in his 13th Monte Carlo semifinal on Saturday, but the Bulgarian will need a massive improvement from his win over David Goffin if he’s to stand a chance of claiming a second career victory against the 10-time champion.
“It’s difficult to play better than today,” admitted Nadal.
“Being honest, I have to recognize that. But my goal is to rest and to try to wake up tomorrow again with the same energy and to go on court with the same mentality, try to play close to the way that I played today.”
Nadal started as if he knew Thiem was a potential threat, holding to love before breaking the 24-year-old at the first time of asking.
Thiem was not serving at the same level he managed in his win over two-time champion Novak Djokovic on Thursday, and although he staved off five break points in game four, he dumped a forehand into the net to gift Nadal a 4-0 lead.
Thiem was struggling, but Nadal barely missed a shot in a near-perfect opening set that he wrapped up with another strong return.
It was the 12th time Nadal had whitewashed a set against a top-10 player, and he got the second set underway with another love hold.
Thiem was wilting in the sweltering conditions and under the pressure from the other side of the net, and then back-to-back miscued forehands saw him lose an eighth straight game.
The Austrian, a two-time French Open semifinalist, finally held his serve to trail 3-1 and deny Nadal the first 6-0, 6-0 victory of his career on the ATP Tour.
The 31-year-old brought up match point with a searing forehand winner, and completed a 68-minute demolition as Thiem fired a backhand into the net.
Dimitrov benefitted from a second-set collapse by Goffin to reach the semifinals for the first time with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) victory.
The 26-year-old Bulgarian got the better of a nervy Goffin in a repeat of last year’s ATP Tour Finals final.
The pair will team up later on Friday in the doubles quarter-finals, but there was no charity on offer from Dimitrov toward his partner turned opponent.
Dimitrov has struggled on clay in the past and has never passed the French Open third round, but he was too strong for Goffin in the principality as he fought back from 5-1 down in the second set.
“Yes, for sure he’s the favorite. Yes, he has a great record. Yes, he’s the best player on clay. That definitely doesn’t discourage me,” said the fourth seed.
“That excites me to get out on Saturday and play my match, simple as that.”
Kei Nishikori overcame a blip at the end of the second set to see off second seed Marin Cilic and reach his first Masters semifinal since Canada in July 2016.
The Japanese only returned from a right wrist injury in January, but played one of his best matches this year to beat Cilic 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3 in a rematch of the Croatian’s 2014 US Open final victory.
He will next face either Richard Gasquet or Alexander Zverev in the last four.


Saudi football chief quits, eyes Asia’s top job

Updated 18 August 2018
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Saudi football chief quits, eyes Asia’s top job

RIYADH: Saudi Football Federation chief Adel Ezzat resigned on Saturday, expressing his intention to run for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation.
“I presented to (Saudi sports authority chief) Turki Al-Sheikh... my resignation from my position as of today,” Ezzat told a Saudi sports broadcaster.
“I will begin preparing... for elections of the Asian Football Confederation, which will be held next year.”
Ezzat’s deputy Nawaf Al-Timyat has been named the Saudi federation’s interim chief until fresh elections are held.
Ezzat was last week elected as the first president of the South West Asian Football Federation, a new regional bloc of federations comprising 14 nations.
The kingdom has long been a marginal player in football’s ruling classes, unlike its Gulf rival Qatar — set to host the 2022 World Cup — with which it is embroiled in a year-long diplomatic spat.
But the oil-rich kingdom is in the midst of a major push for global influence in football governance.