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Nadal Faces Ramos-Vinolas In Monte-Carlo Final; Cast Your Vote

View FedEx ATP Head2Head for the Sunday's final at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters & vote for who you think will win! 
Nadal v Ramos-Vinolas

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The fourth all-Spanish championship in the Open Era at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Sunday features nine-time champion and No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal against No. 15 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who is appearing in his first ATP Masters 1000 final. With a win, Nadal would become the first man in the Open Era to win 10 tournament titles and 50 career clay court titles. It would also be his 70th career ATP World Tour level title and 29th ATP Masters 1000 crown. This is the first all- left-handed final in Monte-Carlo since 2010 when Nadal beat countryman Fernando Verdasco.

Here are the other all-Spanish finals at the Monte-Carlo Country Club:

2011 – Rafael Nadal d. David Ferrer
2010 – Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco
2002 – Juan Carlos Ferrero d. Carlos Moya

Nadal has won both previous meetings in straight sets against Ramos-Vinolas, in 2013-14 Barcelona. Nadal has never lost to a countryman in an ATP World Tour level final, compiling a 14-0 record, with eight wins over David Ferrer and one each over Nicolas Almagro, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alberto Martin, Albert Montanes, Tommy Robredo, and Fernando Verdasco.

Nadal is appearing in his 11th Monte-Carlo final (9-1) with his lone loss coming to Djokovic in 2013. The 30-year-old reigning champion is appearing in his fourth final of the season (0-3) and he’s trying to earn his first ATP World Tour title in almost a year to the day on Apr. 24, 2016 in Barcelona (d. Nishikori). Nadal is appearing in his 58th career clay court final (49-8 record) and he’s trying to win an ATP World Tour title for the 14th straight year (since 2004). Nadal is 28 -15 in ATP Masters 1000 finals (second to Djokovic’s 30) and overall he is 69-35 in finals.

Ramos-Vinolas is putting together his career-best week and he’s posted back-to-back Top 10 wins for the first time, defeating World No. 1 Andy Murray in the 3R and No. 8 Marin Cilic in the QFs. In the SFs he beat No. 17 Lucas Pouille, all in three sets. Coming into this week, he was 3-26 lifetime against Top 10 opponents. The No. 24-ranked Spaniard is trying to become the first player outside the Top 20 to win the Monte-Carlo title since No. 31 Alberto Mancini in 1989 (d. Becker). The last player outside the Top 20 to earn an ATP Masters 1000 title was No. 26 Ivan Ljubicic at 2010 Indian Wells (d. Roddick). On Monday, the 29-year-old Spaniard will crack the Top 20 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time at No. 19 and will climb to No. 14 if he wins the title

Ramos-Vinolas Relishing His Best Week Ever

The finest week of Albert Ramos-Vinolas’ career will have a final chapter on Sunday. The Spaniard, who will play his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters against Rafael Nadal, is receiving a perfect reward for his demanding pre-season.

“It was hard, quiet and specific work,” said the World No. 24 to ATPWorldTour.com after his semi-final win on Saturday over Lucas Pouille. “I focused on very detailed things to work on, not just with tennis, but also physically. At the beginning of the year, the pre-season work didn’t pay off in Australia. The court was very quick for me and in my case does not help. I was really prepared and leaving that early was a disappointment. In South America, everything started to come together and now everything is working better than ever.”

Ramos-Vinolas’ run this week will push him into the Top 20 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time. The 29 year old has found his best level after a long journey that was relatively low-key until this moment.

“I have no idea why my best level arrived at age 29. I guess it’s a matter of maturing. I had a few bad years when I was 24 and 25. After reaching No. 38, I made decisions that were not great, including nutrition decisions, then things didn’t happen the way I expected,” said Ramos-Vinolas. “I would say that the past year has been when I had the biggest change. I was improving constantly, but I was also having an ascending line.”

Ramos-Vinolas describes himself as a quiet and normal guy, but admitted he can have nerves like everyone else. He said the challenge will be to try and control his emotions when facing the nine-time Monte-Carlo champion Nadal.

“I look like a quiet guy, but everybody has nerves. I won’t be an exception. I’ll be nervous. I’ll try my best not to think that is a Masters 1000 final and just focus on what I have to do,” said the Spaniard. “Maybe I am playing my best tennis, but when you are competing, you don’t realise it. I focus only on the match, not the emotions. Everything is coming together and clicking, but I haven’t finished yet.”

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The final in Monte-Carlo is the fourth all-Spanish final in the tournament’s history, once again showing great state of Spanish tennis, particularly on clay.

“It really confirms Nadal’s dominance. It’s my first final, but he is always there. Rafa is Rafa and everybody knows him,” said Ramos-Vinolas. “Will I have more results like this one? I’ll try to, for sure. I know I’m not the favourite, but I’ll go out there and compete. The most important thing is to fight and hang in there.”

#NextGenATP Stars Finding Their Feet On Clay

The puzzle of playing clay-court tennis can be challenging for the best players in the world. The balls kick up and bounce differently, movement is often a big factor and the slower pace adds a further tactical dimension to matches.

#NextGenATP players Jared Donaldson and Reilly Opelka are taking this challenge head on, embarking on the clay-court season at the 2017 Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open in Bradenton, Florida.

Donaldson, at No. 74 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, reached the quarter-finals at the United Tennis Club this week (l. Millot), nearly one year removed from his first final appearance on clay at the 2016 ATP Challenger Tour event in Savannah.

"It's different for all players, but getting your footing on the clay is important,” said Donaldson’s coach Jan-Michael Gambill, a former World No. 14 and three-time ATP World Tour titlist.

“The fact that Jared went to Argentina (Buenos Aires) for a couple years and trained on clay is in his favour. He already moves quite well on it. One of the things we're continuing to work on is continuing to make him better with his fitness. Working on his legs and his movement, which has really improved."

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Gambill, who began working with Donaldson at the beginning of the 2017 season, insists once a player understands the complexities of playing on clay courts, then the task becomes less daunting.

“He needs more matches on clay, so Sarasota fits perfectly into our training block before we go over there,” added Gambill. “On clay, there are always strategies to work on like moving further back to return serve because the ball is kicking higher. Sometimes it's just about understanding the court positioning and that you need to play longer points, but he gets that." 

Since turning professional in 2015, Opelka has played a majority of his matches on the hard courts. However, the 19 year old is willing to put in the hard yards to adapt.

"When I train for clay, I like to practise for two hours and then my coach Diego Moyano will leave and my strength and conditioning coach will come out on court right away. We'll work for another hour on cardio and movement,” revealed Opelka. “More on clay we'll do that and work on movement with the medicine ball and also sliding.

"It's a different concept of how you're playing. For me, it's still pretty similar as I'm looking to serve big and it gives me a lot of time to set up balls. My serve is just as effective I'd say. I go for my serve with the same mindset of not letting the back come back. That's on any surface."

The towering teenager, standing at 6’11” tall, hopes to close in on the Top 100 by the end of the grass court season in July. He’ll need some breakthrough moments on the red dirt of the European clay, but Opelka is buoyed by the French destinations.

"The green clay in the U.S. is completely different from the red clay. It's a lot of adjusting every week. I grew up in Florida and only played on clay then. But now there's only two months a year on clay - four to five tournaments,” said Opelka. “I do enjoy it though, especially going to France is great. I'm playing in Bordeaux in a few weeks and I’m pretty excited to go over there."

Donaldson and Opelka will both continue their clay-court campaigns in Europe, with Donaldson next slated to hit the red dirt of the Mutua Madrid Open and Opelka seeking to qualify there and compete at the prestigious BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Murray, Nadal Set To Battle In Barcelona

Andy Murray is wasting no time getting back on the clay after his third-round exit from the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. The Scot has accepted a late wild card into the Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell and will be the top seed at the ATP World Tour 500 tournament this week.

View Draw

Murray joins an already must-see field in the Spanish city. Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal will be going for his 10th title, and World No. 9 Dominic Thiem and Monte-Carlo semi-finalist David Goffin also will be looking to hone their games on the red dirt. #NextGenATP star Alexander Zverev will be making his second appearance in Barcelona after also accepting a late wild card.

Murray won't have to worry about Nadal until the final but Thiem has been drawn in Murray's half. The World No. 1 could meet Aussie Bernard Tomic or “Hot Shot Machine” Dustin Brown in the second round, and a third-round meeting against 16th seed Feliciano Lopez could await.

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In the quarter-finals, one of two Spanish clay-court mavens could meet Murray, either Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who has reached the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final, or sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut. The fourth-seeded Thiem is the on-paper favourite to meet Murray in the semi-finals.

Nadal could face compatriot and longtime friend David Ferrer in the third round. Barcelona fans could see Nadal face Zverev in the quarter-finals, which would be their third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting this season and fourth overall. Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-0.

The fifth-seeded Goffin could meet 11th seed Pablo Cuevas in the third round. Both players are coming off strong runs in Monte-Carlo, with Goffin reaching his third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final and Cuevas knocking off World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka before falling in the quarter-finals.

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