In a clash between surely the two best clay courters now around, defending champion and world #1 Rafael Nadal takes on Dominic Thiem, the only man to beat him past year on the red dirt. With five consecutive points, Djokovic came to a new break.
The pair traded breaks to open the second set but Djokovic sensed Coric’s vulnerability, breaking for the second time in quick succession and holding to love to strengthen his grip on the match.
World number seven Thiem laid down a marker in the opening stages, holding to love before breaking the Djokovic serve with a clean forehand victor.
“I’ve had three matches here, I didn’t expect anything”.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic earned his first Masters 1,000 win this year after defeating fellow Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-0, 6-1 in the first round of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion saw off Khachanov in what was his second comfortable victory of the week after his opening win over Aljaz Bedene.
“Ideally I’d want to be playing the way I played for so many years”, the former world number one, now ranked 13, said. Unfortunately, Borna missed, and Djokovic used the “gift” for the comeback. Two-time champion Djokovic would face the man who he described, after reaching the third round, as possibly among the top three clay-court players on the tour. Serving at 5-3 and 15-40 down, he mistimed a forehand and the ball went off the racket frame and into the crowd. But the huge effort required, the up and down nature of the match, not to mention the 10 match points he needed to get over the line, showed again that Djokovic’s return to his former glories after injury and a crisis of confidence is not likely to be an easy or quick one.
Nadal, who fired 25 winners against Khachanov, looked in ominous form as he progressed to the quarters for a 14th successive year.
It was one of those days where nearly every singles match deserved to revel in the sunshine of Court Rainier III as the last 16 men battled for a place in the quarter-finals of the first clay Masters of 2018. But every match here in Monte-Carlo had some periods of brilliance and the tennis that I really enjoyed, I wanted to play. Nadal has won the title 10 times. They are on course to meet in the quarterfinals, but Djokovic isn’t getting ahead of himself. He and others such as Thiem or Dimitrov could play spoiler against the world No. 1 Nadal. “It’s disrespectful toward Dominic and Dominic’s tennis to think about and talk about a matchup with Nadal”.
He moves on to face Marin Cilic, who advanced without hitting a shot after his third-round opponent Milos Raonic was forced into yet another injury withdrawal.
Sixth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium made it through after beating Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-4, 7-5.
Due to the hip injury, Nadal was troubled for a long time and for this reason he got out in the middle of Australian Open.