The marquee showdown Thursday in Monte Carlo between 2-time champion Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic lived up to the billing with the Austrian again taking down the former World No. 1 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3.
The 2-hour, 29-minute affair looked Thiem’s way early as he was the aggressor early taking a quick 3-0 lead and then held set points at 5-3. But Djokovic clawed back and took a tight breaker.
Thiem got the upper hand again in the second, and this time held his form. And carried it over into the third over the Djokovic who just couldn’t find the mark on his shots.
It was Thiem’s second straight win over Djokovic after his stunner at the French last year.
“Every win is important, especially against such a great player as Novak,” said Thiem. “It’s the quarterfinals now, so it’s only getting tougher… It was important for my self-confidence, to know I’m physically 100 per cent again. It was a great win. Of course it’s important, but tomorrow is a new day.”
Djokovic, who was playing his first event after re-uniting with former coach Marian Vadja, stressed patience.
Ideally I’d want to be playing the way I played for so many years,” said Djokovic. “But that comes with time. I understand that it’s quite hard to play match after match on a very high level if I didn’t have too many matches behind me, if I had an injury, if I had an absence from the Tour for six months. All these things we have to take in consideration.
“Obviously patience is required, trust in the process, believing in myself, in my game, people around me. I really believe that if I continue doing what I’m doing so far, believing in myself, I know eventually I’m going to get there. I’m going to get there.”
Next for Thiem is World No. 1 and King of Clay Rafael Nadal who blew out Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-2.
“It was a good victory – straight sets against a difficult opponent,” said Nadal. “I think I played little bit better than yesterday. My serve worked well and my forehand was better than yesterday.
Though he’s behind 5-2 in their series, Thiem was the only player to beat Nadal on clay last year.
“It’s the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him,” said Thiem of playing Rafa. “For sure tomorrow, I have to raise my level again. I think I’m able to do that. If you do so, I’m going to have chances tomorrow. If not, I’m out. It’s pretty easy… Of course, I would have liked to have faced him later in the tournament. But the draw was a little bit unlucky for me, especially. Hopefully for him, as well, tomorrow.”
Marin Cilic advanced without taking the court when his opponent, the oft-injured Milos Raonic, withdrew due to a right knee issue.
“It was difficult yesterday, early in the match, I rotated on my knee in an uncomfortable position and felt pain,” Raonic said. “I finished the match with some swelling and I thought through treatment it would be better, but I had more pain today. After consultation with the doctors, I needed to get down to the bottom of the issue and I was at risk to cause further pain. I will know more in the next few days.”
Cilic gets Kei Nishikori who had to go the distance to deny Andreas Seppi 6-0, 2-6, 6-3.
Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin were also winners, they’ll meet tomorrow.
Alexander Zverev began the day with a 3-set win over Jan Lennard Struff. He’ll next face Richard Gasquet who just beat his brother, Mischa.
FRIDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III Starts At 11:00 Am
QF 4 Grigor Dimitrov VS 6 David Goffin
QF 1 Rafael Nadal VS 5 Dominic Thiem
QF Kei Nishikori VS 2 Marin Cilic
QF Richard Gasquet VS 3 Alexander Zverev
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