Either Marin Cilic, Lucas Pouille, Pablo Cuevas, or Albert Ramos-Vinolas will be in this week’s Monte-Carlo final. Such is the surprising quarterfinal lineup in the top half of the draw, with Cuevas facing Pouille and Cilic battling Ramos-Vinolas on Friday.
(16) Pablo Cuevas vs. (11) Lucas Pouille
Cuevas and Pouille will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers when they clash in the quarterfinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Friday. Pouille has enjoyed one of the easiest paths to the quarters of a Masters 1000 event in recent memory. The 17th-ranked Frenchman crushed Ryan Harrison and Paolo Lorenzi both by 6-2, 6-4 scorelines before getting a retirement from compatriot Adrian Mannarino just three games into their third-round contest. This is a much-needed result for Pouille, who lost early in Indian Wells and Miami–both times to Donald Young.
Even though Cuevas had to go through Stan Wawrinka, his appearance in the last eight is arguably less surprising. The 27th-ranked Uruguayan captured a clay-court title in Sao Paulo earlier this week, giving him six ATP titles in his career–all on the red stuff. Prior to taking out Wawrinka 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday, Cuevas rolled over Viktor Troicki (6-3, 6-0) and Joao Sousa (6-3, 6-3). Pouille is no slouch on this surface, but it obviously favors Cuevas and the 16th seed has easily been one of the best players in the draw so far this week.
Pick: Cuevas in 3
(15) Albert Ramos-Vinolas vs. (5) Marin Cilic
Cilic had been just about hopeless in 2017 prior to arriving in Monte-Carlo. Only two matches later, he suddenly finds himself as the favorite–at least according to the rankings–to reach the final from the top half of the bracket. The eighth-ranked Croat is turning things around after winning a mere total of five matches in his first seven tournaments of the season. Cilic opened with a 6-3, 6-0 rout of Jeremy Chardy, who had upset in him Miami, before coasting past Tomas Berdych 6-2, 7-6(0) on Thursday.
Up next for Cilic on Friday is a fifth career meeting with Ramos-Vinolas, who trails the head-to-head series 3-1. The 24th-ranked Spaniard won their first encounter at the 2011 Shanghai Masters but has since lost three in a row and seven consecutive sets against Cilic. Their only previous clay-court contest came in 2012, when Cilic scored a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory in Hamburg. A quarterfinalist last year at Roland Garros, Ramos-Vinolas is 17-11 this season and 14 of his wins have come on the slow stuff. In five previous clay-court events he reached two quarterfinals, two semifinals, and one final (lost to Cuevas in Sao Paulo). The 15th seed is through to another quarterfinal this week thanks to defeats of Renzo Olivo, Carlos Berlocq, and world No. 1 Andy Murray, the latter via a 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 decision on Thursday. Ramos-Vinolas turned in an amazing effort over two hours and 32 minutes, during which he recovered from a 4-0 deficit in the third set to stun Murray. Asking him to duplicate the feat one day later may be too much.
Pick: Cilic in 2