The first marquee match of the clay season takes place Thursday in Monte Carlo as 2-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on his French Open conqueror from a year ago, Dominic Thiem.
In one his best matches of a poor year, Djokovic gutted out a 7-6(5), 7-5 victory over the hot-handed Borna Coria on Wednesday. The Serb actually served for the match in the second but couldn’t close it out, but finally did on his 10th match point!
The win pits him against Thiem who had the day off after saving a match point against Andrey Rublev yesterday. He leads the Austrian 5-1 but the Roland Garros loss is the one that matters most.
“The matches are only going to get tougher. I’m going to just think about Dominic,” Djokovic said. “Last year at Roland Garros he beat me in straight sets. He’s definitely Top 3 player in the world on clay. He’s one of the best players in general.
“He’s coming off an injury himself… But he came back yesterday, I think match point down, and had a tough one himself. As I said, he’s a clay-court specialist. He’s someone that has a very powerful game and can play from inside of the court, back of the court, spin the ball, flatten it, hit a 220km/h serve, have an equally effective kick serve. He’s got it all, the entire game for clay. I’ve got to think only about that. It’s not the first time I have to face in earlier rounds some top players. I look forward to it.”
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal opened his bid for an 11th Monte Carlo title by dominating Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene 6-1, 6-3.
“It was a positive start,” said Nadal. “That’s all. It’s important for me to win matches, of course. I need days on court. Since Shanghai last year, I have spent not enough time on court competing. Every match that I have the chance to win is a great news, because it [helps my] confidence and is a chance to play another day. That’s what I need.”
Nadal will face the dangerous Russian phenom Karen Khachanov who blew out Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-2.
“Tough opponent, of course,” said Nadal of Khachanov who he has beaten in both prior meetings. “No doubt about that. He’s a player that serves big and has big shots from the baseline. I need to play aggressive. I can’t let him play in comfortable positions because then it will be impossible… I know it’s going to be an important test for me.”
Nadal must win the title to stay No. 1.
Also, Marin Cilic edged Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-6(4), Kei Nishikori overcame a slow start to deny Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2 and Roberto Bautista Agut and Richard Gasquet were also winners.
Thursday also seeds Grigor Dimitrov against Philipp Kohlschreiber in third round play. Plus, Milos Raonic-Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev-Jan Lennard Struff.
THURSDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III Starts At 11:00 Am
3rd Rd Jan Lennard Struff VS 3 Alexander Zverev
3rd Rd 9 Novak Djokovic VS 5 Dominic Thiem
3rd Rd 1 Rafael Nadal VS Karen Khachanov
3rd Rd 14 Milos Raonic VS 2 Marin Cilic
COURT DES PRINCES Starts At 11:00 Am
3rd Rd 11 Roberto Bautista Agut VS 6 David Goffin
3rd Rd 4 Grigor Dimitrov VS Philipp Kohlschreiber
3rd Rd Mischa Zverev VS Richard Gasquet
3rd Rd (Q) Andreas Seppi VS Kei Nishikori
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