Monte Carlo semifinals preview: Nadal v. Dimitrov; Zverev v. Nishikori

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Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov are set to battle in what should be a great semifinal match in Monte Carlo. (AP)

Rafael Nadal vs. Grigor Dimitrov

It only took one rally to find out who was going to win Friday’s quarterfinal between Nadal and Dominic Thiem. After belting a few balls back and forth with the Austrian, Rafa hauled off on a crosscourt backhand for a winner. This isn’t a shot he normally hits with that kind of authority, and it isn’t a shot he normally uses to finish a point. But this wasn’t a normal day, even for the King of Clay. Confident in every part of his game, Rafa quickly dismantled the player who many consider his closest competitor for this year’s French Open title, 6-0, 6-2.

Should we expect anything less from Nadal against Dimitrov? The Bulgarian plays a somewhat similar game as Thiem—big forehand, one-handed backhand, good wheels. And he’s used those assets well so far in Monte Carlo, where he has fought through three close matches, over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and David Goffin. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents, and none of them will prepare him for what he’ll face against Nadal, but beating them may give Dimitrov the confidence he needs to push Rafa—or at least get more than two games. While he’s 1-10 against Nadal lifetime, Dimitrov has won 11 sets in those 11 matches. One of their three-set battles happened on these courts in 2013.

Winner: Nadal

WATCH - Match point from Nadal's dominant win over Thiem in Monte Carlo: 

Alexander Zverev vs. Kei Nishikori

They’ve been the warriors of Monaco this week—to reach the semis, Zverev and Nishikori have each survived three three-set matches. The toughest and most entertaining of them was Zverev’s 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Richard Gasquet late on Friday evening; like all the best clay-court matches, it was as fun as it was brutal. Now the question is: While Zverev is young, how well can he recover by Saturday afternoon? He and Nishikori have played once, at the Citi Open on hard courts last summer, and Zverev won in straight sets. It probably won’t be so easy this time around.

Winner: Nishikori

WATCH - Match point from Nishikori's win over Cilic in the quarterfinals: 

This Week on Tennis Channel Plus:

ATP Monte Carlo (4/15-4/22)
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WTA Dothan (4/17-4/22)
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