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Tennis: Nadal, Djokovic ease into Monte Carlo quarters

Last updated on: April 19, 2019 13:37 IST

Dusan Lajovic knocks out Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Rafael Nadal in action during his third round Monte Carlo Masters match against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Champion Rafael Nadal and top-ranked Novak Djokovic turned in impressive displays to reach the Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals on Thursday.

Nadal, chasing a record-extending 12th Monte Carlo title, broke Grigor Dimitrov's serve on four occasions to defeat the Bulgarian 6-4, 6-1.

 

After recovering from two break points down in his opening service game, Nadal attacked Dimitrov's backhand with power and precision to move into a 3-1 lead.

The 32-year-old Spaniard continued to extract errors from Dimitrov to claim the first set before racing to his 15th quarter-final on the Monte Carlo clay.

Nadal has now recorded 70 wins at the Monte Carlo Country Club. The only other tournament Nadal has achieved more victories is the French Open, where the 11-time winner holds an astonishing 86-2 match-win record.

Serb Dusan Lajovic pulled off the biggest upset of the day as he saved seven of the nine break points faced to knock out last year's French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-3.

Second seed Nadal was pleased to have negotiated two top 30 players -- Dimitrov and Roberto Bautista Agut -- and tricky playing conditions on Court Rainier III this week.

"The first two rounds I played more than well enough to win. I had two confident scores against two good players," Nadal said.

"The second set (there) were a little bit more mistakes and the wind was even (greater) later in the match. These things are part of the game and just try to be ready for it... You have to adapt. You have to find solutions."

After struggling to rediscover his rhythm in his opener against Philipp Kohlschreiber, Djokovic looked in complete control as he swept past Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-0.

The 31-year-old Serb quickly adjusted the pace on his groundstrokes to claim three consecutive service breaks and take the opening set.

Fritz failed to offer any kind of resistance in the second set and was ultimately undone by his 28 unforced errors.

It moves Djokovic within three wins of matching Nadal's record haul of 33 ATP Masters 1000 titles and he will next face Russian Daniil Medvedev for a semi-final spot.

Medvedev defeated sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, beating the Greek youngster for the fourth time in four matches.

"(Daniil) has improved his movement a lot, I think. Obviously his results are showing that he's close to the top 10 rankings," 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 today.

"We have never faced each other on clay. We have faced each other in a close four-setter in Australia this year... I have seen him play. I have hit with him many times. I'm looking forward to it."

Azarenka, Stosur surprise choices for Fed Cup singles

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka was surprisingly given the nod to play singles for Belarus in their Fed Cup semi-final against Australia and will meet her often doubles partner Ashleigh Barty in the second match on Saturday.

The double Australian Open champion was chosen ahead of world number 35 Aliaksandra Sasnovich probably because of her success on the blue hardcourts Down Under, where she has also won the Brisbane and Sydney titles.

It will be her first singles appearance in the Fed Cup since a World Group playoff against Russia in 2016 after she had a baby then had to limit her travel due to a custody dispute. She played doubles against Germany earlier this year.

Azarenka and Barty teamed up for doubles at the Australia Open and again at Miami last month, where they made the semi-finals.

Azarenka beat Barty the only time the pair have met in singles - last year in Tokyo - but since then the Australian has moved into the world's top 10 and won her first Premier Tier tournament in Miami last month.

Barty said the 6-4 6-2 loss to Azarenka in Tokyo had been "one way traffic" and expected the world number 61 to draw on her success in Australia when they clash after former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur's opening match against world number 10 Aryna Sabalenka.

"In Australia she's had some of her best results," Barty said. "She's very familiar with this surface, with this court, and I think in a way it's remarkable what she's been able to do after having (her son) Leo and coming back so quickly and being so successful."

Stosur's selection by Australia captain Alicia Molik to open the tie against the hard-hitting Sabalenka was also bit surprising given the 35-year-old's struggles at home tournaments.

The 2011 US Open champion has never gone beyond the fourth round at the Australian Open and struggled in both Brisbane and Sydney, but Molik said her experience was what swayed it in her favour over the higher ranked Daria Gavrilova.

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