- ATP Tour
Invincible Nadal reaches QFs, Djokovic fights back
Rafael Nadal's storming start to 2013 continued at the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday, where he chalked up his 44th consecutive Monaco win to reach the quarter-finals. Novak Djokovic also progressed after coming from a set down for the second day in a row.
Nadal faced No. 16 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the last-eight, winning with some ease 6-2 6-4. Victory keeps him on course for a ninth straight Monte Carlo crown.
Kohlschreiber had won the pair's previous meeting, which took place on the grass of Halle last year. However, Nadal is a different monster on clay and he extended his overall head-to-head record against the German to 9-1.
Never has Nadal begun a campaign so well. Having made a delayed start to 2013, he has gone 19-1 upon his return, winning 16 on the spin.
It took the Spaniard three games to find his first break of the contest, converting at the third time of asking for a 2-1 lead. Nadal found six winners in those early exchanges, and his ability to end points emphatically forced Kohlschreiber to attack the lines - prompting errors as he strayed off target.
The only window of opportunity for the German came in the sixth game when he was at 30-30 on his rival's delivery, but Nadal quickly extinguished the threat before a thrilling point led to another break in the next.
Kohlschreiber thought he had outsmarted the former world No. 1 when he threw up a lob that sent Nadal scurrying to the baseline. However, Nadal's recovery powers were awesome as he dug out a lob of his own in return, wrong-footing Kohlschreiber as he moved into the net. The break followed, and Nadal had the set in 40 minutes.
Kohlschreiber was still searching for his first break point, yet he was too busy rescuing them on his own serve as Nadal threatened immediately at the start of the second. He managed to stay on serve to 3-3, at which point Nadal ripped a forehand winner down the line to assume total control of the match.
He now meets Grigor Dimitrov after Dimitrov overcame Florian Mayer 6-2 6-4.
It was a case of déjà vu for Novak Djokovic as he reached the quarter-finals by grinding out a 4-6 6-2 6-2 victory over Juan Monaco.
The world No. 1 had to come from a set down to get the better of Mikhail Youzhny in the second round on Wednesday, and once again the Serb dropped the opening set to an opponent determined to claim the biggest shock of the week so far. Djokovic, though, fought back to continue his bid for a maiden Monte Carlo Masters title.
With the opening two games shared, it was Monaco who secured the first break of the match, despite Djokovic saving two of three break points - the second of which with a fantastic sliding cross-court forehand.
Djokovic soon drew level in the eighth game after the Serb converted his first break point of the contest, but he handed the advantage back to Monaco after sending a wild forehand wide, allowing Monaco to close out the set.
Like he did against Youzhny, Djokovic began to assert his authority at the start of the second, and the world No. 1 raced into a 3-0 lead after he reduced his error count. Monaco kept the pressure on and responded by claiming the break back, but Djokovic resumed control of the set to go 4-2 in front, playing two powerful backhands to secure the break with a delightful volley.
In the space of a few minutes Djokovic had opened up a 5-2 advantage, and Monaco found the Serb increasingly difficult to read as he was twice caught out by drop shots. He knew the set was going the way of Djokovic, who promptly took the contest to a decider.
Djokovic was now in total command and repeated the feat of the second set to go 3-0 up once more. A second break then came his way - set up after a fine backhand down the line - and his passage into the last-eight was eventually sealed in comfortable fashion.
Djokovic's quarter-final opponent will be Jarkko Nieminen after the Finn superbly ousted former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4 4-6 7-6(4).
Nieminen is on a high after knocking out Canadian No. 1 Milos Raonic and now Del Potro - who battled hard from a set behind but could not complete the comeback in a final set tiebreak.
Elsewhere, No. 4 seed Tomas Berdych was stunned by Fabio Fognini, who claimed a 6-4 6-2 victory. Berdych was broken four times by the world No. 32, who is yet to win a title on the ATP Tour.
Fognini will put on a contest of two flair players in the quarter-finals after Richard Gasquet overcame Marin Cilic to set up a meeting with the Italian. Gasquet beat Cilic 7-5 6-4 in a match that saw the Croat fail to hit a single ace.