Grigor Dimitrov says he is not scared to face Rafael Nadal

Nadal welcomes confidence-building court time

Dimitrov has struggled on clay in the past and has never passed the French Open third round, but he was too strong for sixth seed Goffin in the Monaco sunshine.

(Getty Images photo) The Spaniard is playing in only his second tournament of the year because of a right-hip injury that forced him to retire from his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic.

World number seven Thiem laid down a marker in the opening stages, holding to love before breaking the Djokovic serve with a clean forehand victor.

Former world number one Djokovic lost 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 6-3 in an engrossing match. Given that this was a clash between 2 of the best clay court players, Nadal would have to dig deep.

Nadal started his bid for an 11th Monte Carlo title with a comfortable victory over Slovenia's Bedene.

Thiem held serve in the second set to avoid a double-bagel defeat. "Three matches played." The 12-time Grand Slam champion was playing in only his fourth tournament since last year's Wimbledon, after losing his opening matches at both Indian Wells and Miami to Taro Daniel and Benoit Paire respectively. The "Big Four" of Nadal, Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have dominated the game unlike any other four players competing in the same era.

"That excites me to get out on Saturday and play my match, simple as that".

Bautista Agut was given a code violation for accidently hitting a ball boy with a ball after going 4-1 down in the second set, recovering to save two match points and winning four straight games to level at 5-5.

Nishikori regained his composure to secure a crucial break in the eighth game of the decider as he clinched a semi-final berth in just under three hours.

The sun had long gone when their match finished at almost 9 p.m., delaying Zverev's birthday party.

"Thanks everybody for staying".

"I know how tough and frustrating is when you work every day and you don't see the light of how to improve".

A day after a milestone of his own - career win 500, secured against Zverev's older brother - Gasquet continued to upset the family.

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