MONTE CARLO, April 18, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters has provided No. 10 seed Daniil Medvedev with an excellent opportunity to enjoy a breakout week. Not only has the 23-year-old Russian become the first player to reach 20 tour-level victories this season – his 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas improved his win-loss record to 20-6 – but by beating the eighth-ranked Greek on Thursday afternoon, it also represented the second Top 10 victory of his career. It was also Medvedev’s fourth consecutive victory against Tsitsipas – and the first one on clay.
“It’s a great achievement,” said Medvedev, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “I had only two wins on clay on the ATP Tour before this tournament. Now I have three (this week) … everything is perfect.”
During their one hour and 45 minute match on Court Rainier III at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, Medvedev won 80 percent (20 of 25) of his first-serve point opportunities despite placing just 38 percent of his first serves in play. Meanwhile, Tsitsipas struggled with winning points on his second serve as he converted just 38 percent (9 of 24) of them. His second double-fault, on match point, secured a berth for Medvedev in Friday’s quarterfinal round, the fourth time in eight tournaments he’s reached that plateau this season.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 18. April 2019
“In the third set I just went out there and thought, ‘Okay I need to put every ball I can in the court,’” Medvedev said. “Even being a break down, I finally managed to do it.”
Last year, it took Medvedev until August at the Rogers Cup to win his 20th match of the season, when he was ranked No. 68. Now, he’s enjoying a career-best ranking of No. 14.
On Friday, Medvedev will face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in search of his first career head-to-head win against the Serbian, while also playing in his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal.
Djokovic battles wind, beats Fritz
Battling windy conditions, the top-seeded Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to beat No. 65 Taylor Fritz of the United States, 6-3, 6-0, and move into the quarterfinals. Fritz, the only American in the draw, was trying to be the first from the U.S. since Sam Querrey in 2008 to reach the quarterfinals. Instead, he was outmatched by Djokovic, whose victory improved his win-loss record to 15-3 this year.
“The more you play, the more comfortable you get,” Djokovic told Tennis Channel after his match. “That was the case of today. I’m feeling more comfortable playing here. There were tough conditions today. Fritz is a big server and has a big game. I tried to take him out of his comfort zone by mixing it up – playing some spins and slices – and not giving him the same look all the time. It worked well.”
The two-time (2013, 2015) Monte-Carlo champion Djokovic won 70 percent (16 of 23) of his first serve points and dropped just 16 points on his serve in outpointing Fritz, 64-43. Djokovic broke Fritz’s serve six times in 10 tries and closed out the win on his first match-point opportunity.
Nadal continues mastery of Dimitrov
Meanwhile, 11-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal won his 17th straight match in the Principality of Monaco and improved his career record in this ATP Masters 1000 tournament to 70-4 with a 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 28 Grigor Dimitrov. Needing just 94 minutes to advance to his 15th Monte-Carlo quarterfinal, the Spaniard put forth another superb effort in which he capitalized on four service breaks and converted 66 percent of his service points. Nadal improved his career head-to-head against Dimitrov to 12-1, including 5-0 on clay. The Bulgarian, who reached last year’s semifinals, will fall out of the Top 40 for the first time since February 2013.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 18. April 2019
“I felt good. I think that the first set was a high-quality set of tennis,” said Nadal, as quoted by the ATP Tour website following his press conference. “The second set (there) were a little bit more mistakes and the wind was even (greater) later in the match. The wind is for both of us, and of course always have an impact. That’s what happen when you play outdoors. These things are part of the game and just try to be ready for it. … You have to adapt. You have to find solutions.”
As Nadal chases after his fourth straight Monte-Carlo title, his next opponent will be 35th-ranked Guido Pella of Argentina, who reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 11 seed Marco Cecchinato of Italy. Pella, who won the title in São Paulo earlier this season, has won eight of his last 10 matches on clay.
Qualifier Sonego continues to surprise
Elsewhere, qualifier Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, ranked No. 96, continued his dream week by reaching the quarterfinals with a win over No. 56 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, 6-2, 7-5, in one hour and 24 minutes. He is the first qualifier since Fred Gil of Portugal in 2011 to reach the Monte-Carlo quarterfinals. A year ago, Sonego was ranked No. 159. By reaching his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal, his ranking will improve to a career-best No. 66.
The 23-year-old Sonego won 75 percent of his service points (40 of 53) and dropped just 13 points on his serve. He outpointed Norrie 69-48 to advance to his second straight quarterfinal after reaching the final eight last week in Marrakech. Next, he will play Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, who took out No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, 6-3, 6-3, in one hour and 32 minutes. It was Lajovic’s first win over the Indian Wells champion in six meetings.
Fognini proves a crowd favorite
Finally, in the last match of the day on Court Rainier III, No. 13 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy reached his fifth career ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal with an upset win over No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, 7-6 (6), 6-1. The soon-to-be 22-year-old Zverev (his birthday is Saturday) was a semifinalist last year and brought a 2-0 head-to-head record against Fognini. However, the Italian, himself a former Monte-Carlo semifinalist (2013), ignited the crowd with his dynamic play.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 18. April 2019
“Fognini played strategically the match he needed to play almost from the start,” said Tennis Channel analyst Chanda Rubin. “The (first-set) tie-break was so big and he ran away with the momentum from that point on. Tough day at the office for Zverev. He was pressed constantly by Fognini.”
Statistically, Fognini’s game was solid – he won 71 percent of his service points (44 of 62), was broken just once, and outpointed Zverev 71-55. Along with Sonego, two Italians have reached the Monte-Carlo quarterfinals for the first time since Corrado Barazzutti and Adriano Panatta accomplished the feat in 1978.
Next, Fognini will face No. 9 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, who bested Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the last remaining Frenchman, 6-4, 6-2. Although Herbert saved four match points during the seventh game of the final set, which lasted more than 12-minutes, it wasn’t enough as Coric put away the match a game later to reach his second straight ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal and seventh of his career. Coric, who has won eight of his last 10 clay-court matches, was not broken during the one hour and 41 minute match on Court des Princes.
What they’re saying
• Rafael Nadal, 11-time Monte-Carlo champion: “I am happy the way that I am playing. The first two rounds I played more than well enough to win. I had two confident scores against two good players. First matches after an injury, that’s always a tough thing to come back. At the same time, (we’re on a) different surface, on clay after almost a year. So that’s a good start for me on the clay court season.”
• Top-seed Novak Djokovic, on his quarterfinal match-up against No. 10 seed Daniil Medvedev: “(Daniil) has improved his movement a lot, I think. Obviously his results are showing that he’s close to the Top 10. … 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 practiced with him many times. I’m looking forward to it.”
Third round singles
No. 1 Novak Djokovic d. Taylor Fritz, 6-3, 6-0
No. 10 Daniil Medvedev d. No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4
Dusan Lajovic d. No. 4 Dominic Thiem, 6-3, 6-3.
Q-Lorenzo Sonego d. Cameron Norrie, 6-2, 7-5
No. 9 Borna Coric d. Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 6-4, 6-2
No. 13 Fabio Fognini d. No. 3 Alexander Zverev, 7-6 (6), 6-1
Guido Pella d. No. 11 Marco Cecchinato, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
No. 2 Rafael Nadal d. Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-1
Second round doubles
Radu-Albot Nikoloz Basilashvili d. Marton Fucsovics-Guido Pella, 6-1, 6-7 (7), 10-6
Diego Schwartzman-Joao Sousa d. No. 6 Henri Kontinen-John Peers, 6-4, 6-3
Marcelo Demoliner-Daniil Medvedev d. No. 4 Juan Sebastian Cabal-Robert Farrah, 6-2, 6-4
No. 2 Lukasz Kubot-Marcelo Melo d. Jurgen Melzer-Dominic Thiem, 6-3, 6-4
Friday’s order of play
Court Rainier III/11 a.m.
Dusan Lajovic vs. Q-Lorenzo Sonego
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 10 Daniil Medvedev
Guido Pella vs. No. 2 Rafael Nadal
No. 9 Borna Coric vs. No. 13 Fabio Fognini
Court des Princes/11 a.m.
No. 3 Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares vs. Diego Schwartzman-Joao Sousa
Robin Haase-Wesley Koolhof vs. Radu Albot-Nikoloz Basilashvili
No. 7 Nikola Mektic-Franko Skugor vs. No. 2 Lukasz Kubot-Marcelo Melo
Maximo Gonzalez-Horacio Zeballos vs. Marcelo Demoliner-Daniil Medvedev (after suitable rest)