Djokovic knocked out as 'lucky' Nadal battles on in Monte Carlo

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Russia's Daniil Medvedev with Serbia's Novak Djokovic after winning their quarterfinal match of the ATP 1000 - Monte Carlo Masters at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, on Friday. — Reuters

MONTE CARLO, Principality of Monaco — World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was dumped out by Daniil Medvedev while Rafael Nadal survived a struggle to reach the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters for the 14th time on Friday.

Djokovic, twice a champion in the principality, lost serve five times in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 defeat by Russia's 10th seed Medvedev.

Nadal, an 11-time winner of the event, rallied from 4-1 down in his opening set before finally overhauling potential Argentine spoiler Guido Pella 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.

For Djokovic, who won a record seventh Melbourne title in January, defeat marked another premature exit after he crashed out in the early rounds at Indian Wells and Miami last month.

The Serb, who has won the last three Grand Slam events and could conclude a personal sweep with another title at Roland Garros in June, feels that all he needs is more court time and some extra polish.

"The French Open is the ultimate goal on clay. It's expected in a way for me to peak right at that tournament, because that's what I'm aiming for," Djokovic said.

"This is only the first tournament on clay, and it's a long season. Let's see how it goes.

"Maybe I'm lacking the consistency with the top results in the last couple of years in the best tournaments. But I've been playing my best at Grand Slams and that's what I intend to do."

Djokovic, the 2013 and 2015 champion in Monte Carlo, praised 10th-seeded Medvedev who now has a tour-leading 21 wins in 2019, three more than even Roger Federer.

"I was up all three service games that I lost in the third set. I had game point but just some loose points on dropshots and double faults," said the 31-year-old.

"It's the first tournament of the season on clay, and a lot of maybe lower-ranked guys, they play maybe one tournament before. That can be one of the reasons (for the loss)."

Djokovic was broken three times in the final set, clawing one back but exiting when Medvedev drove a backhand into the far corner on match point.

Nadal toiled away for two hours, 20 minutes to win for the 71st time in 75 matches at the tournament.

"It was a very tough match," Nadal said. "Luckily I was able to come back (from 4-1 down) in the first set. If he had gone 5-1 it may have been almost impossible.

"It was a physically and mentally draining set, especially losing my first three service games. I was lucky to escape, I'm happy to be through."

The first set featured eight breaks of serve before Nadal won it in a tiebreaker.

He served for the match leading 5-2 in the second only to drop serve again, but recovered to take the win as Pella double-faulted.

"Reaching the semifinal again means a lot to me, I hope this win will help me."

Nadal will face off in the semis against either Italian Fabio Fognini of Borna Coric, the ninth seed.

Medvedev welcomed his defeat of Djokovic after losing in each of his three previous encounters with the Serb.

"This was the best match of my career, maybe not in the level of tennis but in beating the number one for the first time in my life," he said. "It's just amazing."

Medvedev will meet another Serb, Dusan Lajovic, on Saturday for a place in the final after the latter beat Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 7-5.

Medvedev totaled less than half of the 47 unforced errors which came off the Djokovic racquet in a three-set tussle in windy conditions.

"Novak played worse here than the times before," Medvedev said. "But I'm also getting more experience.

"I'm making the top guys realize it's not easy to play me." — AFP


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