No problems for Novak and Rafa as title rivals fall in Monte Carlo

 - Alex Sharp

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal stormed into the Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals, but who else joined them?

Rafael  Nadal looking at the ball during Roles Monte-Carlo Masters 2019© Chryslène Caillaud/FFT
Djokovic breezes past young gun

Having prevailed in a gruelling contest against Philipp Kohlschreiber, Novak Djokovic returned to his ruthless ways with an emphatic 6-3 6-0 passage past the unseeded American Taylor Fritz.

The world No.1, champion in Monte Carlo back in 2013 and 2015, battled through the windy conditions on Court Rainier III to edge closer to another absorbing finale with Rafael Nadal.

However, the Serbian faces a tricky task in the last eight in the shape of Daniil Medvedev. The Russian chalked up a second Top 10 win with a 6-2 1-6 6-4 triumph over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

"It's a great achievement," Medvedev said having clinched a tour-leading 20th match victory in 2019. "I had only two wins on clay on the ATP Tour before this tournament. Now I have three this week... everything is perfect."


Djokovic owns a 3-0 head-to-head record against Medvedev, but the world No.14 has crept up the rankings with resilient and robust displays, which has made the top seed wary.

"Daniil has improved his movement a lot. Obviously, his results are showing that he's close to the Top 10,” said Djokovic. "He's definitely in the form of his life. He's had a good tournament so far here, winning quite comfortably in the first two matches and then now against Tsitsipas.

"We have never faced each other on clay. We have faced each other in a close four-setter in Australia this year, so I'm looking forward to it."

The records keep rolling for Rafa

Defending champion Nadal continues to encapsulate the Monte Carlo crowds with his clay court prowess.

This time Grigor Dimitrov was the victim. The Bulgarian held break points in the opening game and then succumbed to the archetypal, relentless play from Rafa in a 6-4 6-1 scoreline for the Manacor native.

Nadal’s trademark lasso forehand was in pristine condition to help notch up 23 successive sets in his favour on these sun-kissed courts, for a staggering 70th win at the Monte Carlo Masters, as well as his 15th quarter-final on these shores.

“I am happy the way that I am playing. I had two confident scores against two good players. First matches after an injury, that's always a tough thing to come back,” Nadal told reporters after posting a 17th consecutive match win in the Principality.

“Every victory is important for the confidence. Is important for the improvements. Hopefully today's victory helps for tomorrow.”

Nothing to lose?

The 11-time champion hopes those improvements will boost his chances against world No.35 Guido Pella. The Argentine was dismissed by Nadal with just four games to his name at Roland Garros last summer, but is in exceptional form having defeated Marin Cilic on Tuesday.

Pella edged past Marco Cecchinato 6-4 4-6 6-4 to reach a maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final. On the flip side, the left-hander has hauled himself through a trio of lung-bursting three-setters this week.

With nothing to lose, can he conjure up the resources to trouble a revitalised Rafa?


Fabulous Fognini in familiar territory  

Scintillating shot-making, daring dashes to the net and orchestrating the crowd into applause – it was some vintage Fabio Fognini.

The Italian, a 2013 semi-finalist at the Monte Carlo Country Club, had the answers to send No.3 seed Alexander Zverev out in an absorbing 7-6(6) 6-1 encounter.

The World No. 18 will have to conjure up more all-court excellence to outmanoeuvre the consistency and grit of Borna Coric in the last eight.

The Croatian saved all three break points in a commanding display to saunter past French hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 6-2.  

Fognini and Coric haven’t duelled in five years and this should produce a pulsating match.

Thiem toppled by resurgent Serbian

Dusan Lajovic backed up an impressive victory over David Goffin to halt Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem’s title aspirations.

The 28-year-old secured a maiden Top 5 victory with an astute 6-3 6-3 performance bursting with remarkable retrieval and a cunning short game to take advantage of the fourth seed’s deep court positioning.

World No.48 Lajovic saved seven of nine break points and seized the initiative by breaking the Austrian five times to claim a first ever triumph over Thiem at the sixth attempt. His reward is a tussle with 23-year-old Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego.