Nadal magnificent in Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal was quite sublime in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday as he stormed past Albert Ramos Viñolas to lift the title.

Sunday marked Nadal’s tenth Monte Carlo Masters triumph in 13 years.

It is a quite incredible feat considering that the tournament has ATP World Tour Masters 1000 status which means that it is only less prestigious and carries only less weight than the four grand slams.

In professional sport, it is rare to see dominance at a particular event on this level.

To provide context, not even the great Tiger Woods has a record as impressive as this at any PGA event. The most victories he has achieved at the same tournament is eight at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

To say that Ramos Viñolas was a sitting duck in the final would be an understatement. The 29-year-old Spaniard has been impressive all week – he was the player who knocked-out Andy Murray in the round of 16. However, beating the King of Clay in the final of his favourite tournament was always going to be a step too far.

And so it proved. Nadal was quickly out of the blocks, breaking in just the fourth game of the match to surge into a 3-1 lead. An indication of the immense confidence he has in his game at the moment was him constantly going for forehand winners down the line. Ramos Viñolas never won another game in the set as Nadal took it 6-1.

At the beginning of the second stanza one sensed that Ramos Viñolas might have found a groove as he applied pressure to Nadal. However, in the fifth game Nadal broke for the third time in the match and then raced to the finish line claiming the second set 6-3.

Speaking afterwards, Nadal could not hide his delight.

On the contrary, Ramos Viñolas was visibly disappointed but conceded that the better player won on the day.

As the clay court swing begins, Nadal’s form is ominous for his rivals. Next up is the Barcelona Open – a tournament he has won nine times.

You would be brave to predict anything but more success for the man who is a nine-time champion at Roland Garros. 

Nastase banned after leaving Konta in tears

There was high drama during the Fed Cup tie between Great Britain and Romania on Saturday as a tirade by Romania captain Ilie Nastase brought Johanna Konta to tears.

Nastase was sent off during Konta's match against Sorana Cirstea after swearing at the umpire and abusing Konta and her captain Anne Keothavong.

Konta subsequently lost her serve in the next game and broke down and started to cry.

The International Tennis Federation said it was looking into "this matter as well as previous comments made by Mr Nastase during the week" - a reference to remarks Nastase made about Serena Williams' unborn child. 

During a press conference on Friday, he turned to one of his other team members and said in Romanian: "Let's see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?"

Clearly upset by what had transpired the day before, Nastase appeared to be in a foul mood on Saturday, and he reacted angrily when Konta and Keothavong had complained of calling out from the crowd during the match against Cirstea.

Nastase called both Konta and Keothavong "a bitch" multiple times as he discussed the matter with officials, and he also swore directly at them.

He was sent off the court by referee Andreas Egli and, after taking a seat in the stands, was then escorted back to the locker room.

When play resumed Konta was able to gather herself and complete a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Cirstea to level the tie at 1-1.

"It was not something anyone should experience," Konta told BBC Sport.

"It did upset me quite a lot and that was shown. I am not one to cry on court. It was slightly embarrassing but it affected me more than I would have liked.

"I know that Fed Cups can be quite emotional and can sometimes take an unexpected turn but it wasn't something I was prepared for.

"Obviously, it left me slightly unnerved but the best I could do was to make it as much about the tennis as possible. I felt I did that and am looking forward to that again tomorrow."

After the match, Cirstea said Konta had overreacted.

"Someone crying cannot stop a match," she said.

"From a tennis point of view, Johanna deserved the win - she is a better player than me - but the behaviour of the British team was exaggerated.

"Why did we stop? Only because Johanna cried? I have never cried on the court because someone told me something. You have to toughen up.

"OK, at 2-1 you take our captain out, that was the right decision, but then at 3-1 I break you and now you cry. I am not saying it was fake, but it was not logical.

"Next time I'm in trouble I will cry, maybe I can go off the court. As Romanians we get double insulted because of our nation but it's OK, we are tough. Tougher than British people apparently."

Before play had even started on Saturday, Nastase took issue with British reporters who had described his comments about Williams' unborn child from the day before as racist.

"He repeatedly called me stupid, asked me why what he said was racist," said Press Association Sport tennis correspondent Eleanor Crooks.

"I explained we simply reported what he said and that it was unnecessary to make such a comment about colour. He said the English were out to get him and called me stupid a few more times."

Goffin no match for 'King of Clay'

Rafael Nadal's seemingly unstoppable march towards a 10th Monte-Carlo Masters title continued on Saturday as he dispatched David Goffin in straight sets.

The Spaniard secured a 6-3, 6-1 victory after just one hour and 20 minutes to book his place in yet another Monte Carlo final.

Goffin was coming off an impressive victory over Novak Djokovic, and was expected to provide Nadal with a stern challenge, but it did not turn out that way.

The initial signs had looked very promising for the Belgian. He earned two early break points in the first game of the match, and though he did not convert either of them, he did break on his next opportunity as he opened up a 3-1 lead.

But that would be as good as it got for Goffin. He battled bravely during a marathon sixth game that went to deuce no less than eight times, but finally relented to hand Nadal the break back, and the Spaniard never looked back.

He would break again two games later for a 5-3 lead before serving out the first set in routine fashion.

The second set saw Goffin win just one game as Nadal steamrolled his way to match point courtesy of three straight breaks.

The 30-year-old Nadal is now one match win away from becoming the first man in the Open Era (since April 1968) to earn 10 tournament titles.

Standing between him and that goal is countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

The 15th seed has already claimed one major scalp at this tournament by beating World No 1 Andy Murray earlier in the week, and he kept his run going with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 semi-final victory over Frenchman Lucas Pouille.

The two players have only met on two previous occasions, in Barcelona in 2013 and 2015, with Nadal coming out on top on both times.

ITF investigating Nastase comment on Serena

The International Tennis Federation has reacted to former world number one Ilie Nastase’s derogatory comment about Serena William's pregnancy.

Nastase, a two-time grand slam winner, was part of a panel being interviewed during Romania's Fed Cup draw in Constanta. 

Simona Halep was fielding questions about William's pregnancy when Nastase, the captain, was heard saying in Romanian: "Let's see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?"

The ITF has caught wind of the comment and have launched an investigation. 

"The ITF does not tolerate discriminatory and offensive language and behaviour of any kind," the statement reads.

"We are aware of alleged comments made by Romanian captain Ilie Nastase and have begun an immediate investigation so that we have the full facts of the situation before taking further and appropriate action."

Murray backing Konta for number one spot

Andy Murray believes rising star Johanna Konta has what it takes to rise to the top of women's tennis.

Konta has picked up two titles this year, firstly at the Apia International and then her first WTA Premier Mandatory event at the Miami Open in March. Her performance at the Apia International in Sydney was particularly dominant, as she cruised through the tournament without dropping a set. 

The Brit has racked up a 19-3 win/loss record for the year, helping her move to a career high ranking of seventh. 

Murray indicated that with the indomitable Serena Williams taking the rest of 2017 off to have her first child, the race is on to claim the mantle of women's tennis.

"It's been pretty much 18 months where she's played at a level where she's in the top seven or eight players in the world," the world number one told The Guardian. 

"She was close to getting to Singapore last year and she's in with a good shot of doing it this year.

"I'm sure for all of the women, with Serena out, it's going to be tough to predict. If she steps up her game there's no reason why she can't get close to the top."

Djokovic blames setting sun for loss

Novak Djokovic reflects on his shock loss to David Goffin at the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday.

The world number two would battle back from a set down to force a deciding set, where he went 4-2 up, only to hand a break back to the fiery Belgian who went on to record his first ever win over Djokovic. 

Djokovic indicated that he failed to adjust to the tricky light in the third set, where the setting sun was affecting the ball toss on serve, with half the court was in the shade while the other was bathed in sunlight.

"It was almost unplayable…I just got disturbed by that light," said the 29-year-old after the match. 

"On 4-3 I lost that serve. On that side, it's kind of hard to find timing when somebody's kind of putting a flashlight directly in your eyes… Both of us struggled on that side. He managed to hold serve on 5-all from that side, which was a great effort from him. But I couldn't."

Djokovic added that he did not enjoy a fast start because he felt the fatigue of his previous two matches, both of which were three set battles.

"I started slowly probably because I played two long matches," said the 12-time grand slam winner.

"But I thought as the match progressed I was feeling okay. You know, I was physically fine. We had a lot of exchanges, a lot of rallies. David is playing very quick. He's a fast player. I thought I played very, very well for a set and a half, from the start of the second set. 

"Then that unfortunate game when I dropped my serve, the match turned around. I had my chances, I definitely did. I just didn't use them."

The loss marks the continuation of a poor start to the year for the Serb, who has failed to make the semi-finals of a tournament in his last four outings.

Goffin scores big win over Djokovic in Monte Carlo

Novak Djokovic's disappointing 2017 form continued as he handed David Goffin the biggest win of his career at the Monto-Carlo Masters on Friday.

The 10th-seeded Belgian had lost all five of his previous meetings against Djokovic, but came out on top on this occasion courtesy of a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victory.

It was also the first time in 14 tries that Goffin had managed to beat a top-three opponent.

And it was a well deserved win, with Goffin starting and finishing the stronger of the two competitors.

In the first set, he moved Djokovic around the court, frequently dictating play as he broke in the first and fifth games.

But true to his reputation, the Serb hit back strongly, winning 11 straight points at one point on the way to the second set.

Djokovic also carved out an early break in the third set, but impressively, Goffin was able to fight back from 2-4 down, punishing his opponent for a few missed opportunities he had to take a double break lead.

He would win three straight games for a 5-4 advantage and then held his nerve to seal victory during a marathon final game that saw Djokovic save four match points before finally relenting on the fifth.

"It's just unfortunate I missed my chances in the third set to go up a double break afterwards," said Djokovic afterwards. 

"I started slowly probably because I played two long matches. But I thought as the match progressed I was feeling okay. 

"I had my chances, I definitely did. I just didn't use them."

Goffin will have little time to celebrate his victory, however, as he moves on to face Rafael Nadal in Saturday's semi-finals.

Nadal, chasing a 10th title in Monte Carlo, remained on track for a perfect start to the clay-court season with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Argentina's Diego Schwartzman.

The score doesn't tell the whole story of the match, however, as Nadal was broken twice in the first and twice more in the second, where he trailed 2-4 at one point.

Luckily he also claimed six breaks of his own to ensure he kept he kept the Argentine at bay.

The other semi-final sees another Spaniard, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, take on France's Lucas Pouille.

Ramos-Vinolas, fresh from his victory over World No 1 Andy Murray, beat Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, while Pouille defeated Pablo Cuevas 6-0, 3-6, 7-5.

All of Friday's semi-final results

Rafa Nadal (Spain) beat Diego Schwartzman (Argentina) 6-4 6-4      
David Goffin (Belgium) beat Novak Djokovic (Serbia) 6-2 3-6 7-5 
Lucas Pouille (France) beat Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) 6-0 3-6 7-5 
Albert Ramos (Spain) beat Marin Cilic (Croatia) 6-2 6-7(5) 6-2 

Murray: I made some bad decisions

Andy Murray reflects on his shock loss to Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the Round of 16 at the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday.

The world number one was in a dominant position in the final set, 4-0 up, before he was worn down by the relentless Spaniard and lost the decider 7-5.

Murray blamed the loss on his tactical choices in the clutch moments.

"A few times today, I made some bad decisions," revealed the Scot on atpworltour.com.

"That's something that, with my team, I'll look at, watch some parts of the match over, see the shots that I chose and what I would do differently.

"At 4-0, one of the service games where I got broken, I didn't play such a good game.

"Then he obviously started playing better towards the end of the set. I still had a bunch of chances. I guess both of us did really. I think at 4-All, he had 0/40, too. I certainly struggled a bit at the end of the match."

While not using it as an excuse, Murray has been protecting his recovering elbow during training by not going at full intensity. In addition, he admitted that he did not adjust quickly enough to playing on the slower clay surface.

"I had to go a little bit easy when I first came back from the elbow," he said

"Whereas now I'm ready to really to put in some hard work.

"When you play on a new surface, you haven't played many matches for a while, you sometimes lose the right way to play. 

"You can be hitting the ball great, but you're not hitting it in the right places. That's an important part of my game, playing the correct way in terms of tactics, hitting the ball in the right spots. I don't hit the ball as hard as a lot of the guys. I normally beat guys by maneuvering them around the court rather than blasting them off the court."

Djokovic and Nadal through to Monte Carlo quarters

Rafael Nadal blew past Alexander Zverev at the Monte-Carlo Masters on Thursday, while Novak Djokovic had to work a bit harder against Pablo Carreno-Busta.

Both men are safely through to the quarter-finals, although Nadal will certainly be the fresher of the two come Friday.

The Spaniard, who is chasing a record 10th title in Monte Carlo this week, looked totally at home on his favoured clay surface as he ruthlessly dispatched Zverev 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and 14 minutes.

It was the young German's birthday, but Nadal wasn't feeling very generous.

The 'King of Clay' improved to 60-4 lifetime record at Monte Carlo as he broke twice in the first set and three more times in the second.

It was a surprising result, considering that Zverev is normally quite at home on clay and was expected to present more of a challenge.

"Before the match, I thought it was going to be a big test for me, a very hard match,” admitted Nadal. 

“I went on court knowing it's going to be one of these kind of matches that if you don't play well, you are probably going to go out. But I played well. I played much better than yesterday [against Kyle Edmund].

"I played more aggressively and I played with a very high intensity from the beginning. I was playing much better with my forehand. I maintained that kind of level for all the match, I think. That was the key.”

Next up for Nadal is Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-0.

Djokovic, meanwhile, battled past Carreno-Busta 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 after a lengthy two hours and 27 minutes on court.

The Serb looked to be cruising, a set and a break up, before suffering a lapse in concentration. 

From nowhere, Carreno-Busta went on a five-game winning streak, holding firm to take the second set and force a decider.

But Djokovic was able to draw on all his guile and experience to get back on top and close out the match, setting up a testing quarter-final clash with David Goffin.

The Belgian advanced after beating Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3.

All of Thursday's third-round results

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beat Pablo Carreno (Spain) 6-2 4-6 6-4              
Diego Schwartzman (Argentina) beat Jan-Lennard Struff (Germany) 6-3 6-0          
Rafa Nadal (Spain) beat Alexander Zverev (Germany) 6-1 6-1                  
David Goffin (Belgium) beat Dominic Thiem (Austria) 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3          
Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) beat Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland) 6-4 6-4             
Albert Ramos (Spain) beat Andy Murray (Britain) 2-6 6-2 7-5                 
Lucas Pouille (France) beat Adrian Mannarino (France) 3-0 (Mannarino retired) 
Marin Cilic (Croatia) beat Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) 6-2 7-6(0)  

Woeful Wawrinka bows out in Monte Carlo

Pablo Cuevas upset third seed Stan Wawrinka to reach the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday. 

The Uruguayan took advantage of a lacklustre Wawrinka to roll him over in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in just 75 minutes on the clay courts of Monte Carlo.

Wawrinka looked out of sorts from the get-go, notching up 33 unforced errors to 17 winners and winning just 63 percent of first service points.

The Swiss star saved two break points early on in the opening set but Cuevas would continue to pile on the pressure and break Wawrinka to go 3-1 up. The world number 27 then saved a couple break points on his way taking the set. 

In the second set, Wawrinka lost his opening service game and Cuevas consolidated immediately and went on to serve out the set without drama to record a memorable win. 

The upset is the second of the day, following Albert Ramos-Vinolas’ three-set win over top seed Andy Murray.

Cuevas will play in his second career Masters 1000 quarter-final against Lucas Pouille after Adrian Mannarino pulled out while 3-0 down in the opening set due to injury.