Day five of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters saw plenty of shocks as two three-time Grand Slam singles champions in the world number one Andy Murray, and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka both fell by the wayside. Albert Ramos Viñolas advanced to his first Grand Slam singles quarterfinal at the French Open last year, therefore, he is no stranger to performing well on clay courts, and Pablo Cuevas, a 2008 French Open champion in the doubles upset Wawrinka in straight sets. The 15th-seeded Spaniard and his quarterfinal opponent, the fifth seed Marin Cilic are the beneficiaries as the top half of the draw has opened up with Cilic, the only player in his section of the draw who has won a Masters 1000 title.
Ramos Viñolas' route to the quarterfinals
The 15th seed has impressed at the first of three Masters 1000 clay court events to be played in Europe ahead of the French Open. Last year's French Open quarterfinalist cruised past two Argentine qualifiers in Renzo Olivo, 6-2, 6-3 and Carlos Berlocq, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the reach the third round in Monte Carlo for the first time in his career. In his 31st Masters 1000 main draw appearance, Ramos Viñolas was vying for a spot in the quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 for the first time in his career. The 29-year-old was up against top seed Andy Murray, who has reached the semifinals in Monte Carlo on three occasions. Both players split the opening two sets, and it looked as though that Murray would cruise in the final set racing out to a 4-0 lead, however, Ramos Viñolas incredibly fought back to win the match, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in over two and a half hours, gaining the biggest victory of his career and second top two victory after defeating Roger Federer in Shanghai in 2015.
Cilic's route to the quarterfinals
Cilic's 2017 season has been underwhelming, entering the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters with a dismal 5-7 record, however, the 2014 US Open champion has seemingly turned a corner in Monte Carlo. The fifth seed received a bye in the first round, and he had a tough second round match with Jeremy Chardy who defeated him in Miami. Nevertheless, the Croat gained his revenge, and he thrashed the French wildcard, 6-3, 6-0 sealing his spot in the third round. In the third round, Cilic was paired with ninth seed Tomas Berdych, and the Czech reached the final in Monte Carlo two years ago. Furthermore, Berdych is now coached by Cilic's former coach Goran Ivanisevic. Nonetheless, the fifth seed recorded a confidence-boosting victory over Berdych, 6-2, 7-6 (0) to level their head-to-head series at 6-6 and advanced to his second Monte Carlo Rolex Masters quarterfinals in three years in the process.
The two seeded players have faced each other on four occasions, and it is last year's Western and Southern Open champion who leads their head-to-head 3-1.
Ramos Viñolas won their first meeting in the first round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters in 2011, 6-3, 6-4. However, Cilic would level their series by defeating the Spaniard on the clay courts in Hamburg, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in 2012. The Croat would take the lead in their meetings for the first time by recording another straight sets victory over the 15th seed in their second round encounter at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in 2013, 7-6 (7), 6-2 and their most significant meeting to date was in the second round of the Australian Open last year, which the Croat was victorious in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
Who reaches the semifinals?
Ramos Viñolas will be competing in his second biggest quarterfinal of his career to date, and the 15th seed will have learned from his quarterfinal thrashing at the hands of Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros last year. Nevertheless, the Spaniard possesses a good forehand, and his movement around clay courts are exceptional, and he doesn't hesitate to come forward to the net to finish off points. The 29-year-old also has a drop shot in his game, which he used effectively against Murray, and he will be looking to implement a similar tactic against Cilic, to get the former US Open champion off the baseline.
Obviously, clay is Cilic's weakest surface, however, he has improved on this surface. Last year, the Croat advanced to the final in Geneva, where he defeated 2013 French Open runner-up David Ferrer, who is on the downside of his career now but it is still a good win nonetheless. Cilic lost to Wawrinka in the final in Geneva on that occasion but he will have some confidence against Ramos Viñolas as he hasn't dropped a set all week. The fifth seed will need to have his serve firing on all cylinders, and his forehand will need to be firing in order to keep the Spaniard at bay. Cilic lost to Novak Djokovic in their quarterfinal meeting two years ago but the Croat is competing in his 11th Masters 1000 quarterfinal and he has only won two of them in the process. It will be a huge opportunity for both players to go on a deeper run in Monte Carlo and both players will fancy their chances. However, Cilic will be the slight favourite as Ramos Viñolas may be fatigued from his match against Murray.
This will be the first match scheduled on Day Six of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on Court Rainier III at 11 am local time, and the winner of this quarterfinal encounter will face 16th seed Pablo Cuevas or two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist and 11th seed Lucas Pouille for a place in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final, which is an incredible achievement for one of those four players.
Prediction: Cilic in straight sets.