Playing with a very heavy heart, Novak Djokovic battled his way from a set down to top Alexandr Dolgopolov 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the third round at the Monte Carlo Masters. Just hours before the match Djokovic learned that his 82-year-old grandfather had passed away. But in what had to be an emotional, difficult win the Serb got through the news.
I’ve criticized Djokovic in the past for not having heart and mental toughness, but here he showed it. You cannot fault his decision either way for playing. It’s his decision. I respect it. And I wish the best to the Djokovic family.
Djokovic was not available for his post-match press conference.
Tomorrow, if he remains in the tournament Djokovic should have an easier time on the court against talented but fragile Dutchman Robin Haase who bounced Ferrer-conqueror Tomaz Bellucci.
Rafael Nadal kicked into high gear losing just two games in crushing Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1. Nadal has now won 39th straight in Monte Carlo and his last 13 on clay as he charges toward a 8th straight title in Monaco.
“The match started in the perfect way,” said Nadal. “I played much better than yesterday, in my opinion. More aggressive, more solid. My serve was much better. The return, too. In general today I was very happy with how I played.”
Nadal now plays Stan Wawrinka who upended Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-3.
Andy Murray had a shortened afternoon when his opponent, Julien Benneteau, injured his ankle and wrist down 6-5 in the first set. The Frenchman had to be taken to the hospital for recovery.
Murray moves on tomorrow to meet Tomas Berdych in a good one. Berdych bested the pesky Kei Nishikori in three.
“He plays a different style of tennis on the clay, as well,” said Murray who’s lost three of five to Berdych. “A lot of the guys sort of work the points quite a lot, play with more topspin and stuff. He has so much power, he’s able to go through the court, hit pretty flat. It’s quite a different game he plays compared with a lot of the top players on the clay. Plays a lot flatter.”
In the final quarterfinal, two in-form Frenchmen lock up as Gilles Simon clashes with JW Tsonga. “We do know each other, but it’s going to be tight because both of us will want to win,” Tsonga said after beating Fernando Verdasco. “I believe it’s going to be an electrifying match.”
JW offered his thoughts on the news of the day about Novak.
“What is strange with me is when this happens, I usually play very well because in those cases nothing seems important,’ Tsonga said. “So if you lose a breakpoint or you miss a point, it doesn’t count. Since my game is to go forward and be aggressive, it helps me being relaxed when I play, but it’s tough.”
As for picks, it’s hard not to like the Top 4 seeds at this stage. I think Nadal gets tested, Murray might need three and Tsonga subdues Simon in a toss up. And if he takes the court Novak should prevail.
The full quarterfinal day will be live on the Tennis Channel.
FRIDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
 A Murray (GBR) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
Not Before 12:00 PM
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs R Haase (NED)
S Wawrinka (SUI) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
 G Simon (FRA) vs  J Tsonga (FRA)
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Rafael Nadal: I Have Amazing Feelings When I Play Monte Carlo [Video]
Novak Djokovic Was A Busy Man After Winning Monte Carlo [Video]
Marquee Clay Schedules: Where Will Nadal, Djokovic, Federer And Murray Be Playing The Next Six Weeks
Djokovic Withdraws From Monte Carlo