Monaco | Nadal marches on
World number one Rafael Nadal cruised to a 6-3 6-2 victory over Russian Karen Khachanov to set up a tricky Monte Carlo Masters quarter-final against Dominic Thiem, the Austrian who in turn, stunned Novak Djokovic.
Khachanov held his own at times in the opening set but never threatened Nadal who claimed his second comfortable victory of the week after his successful opening match.
But it's the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him. I have to raise my level again. I think I'm able to do that.
“A good victory. Straight sets against a difficult opponent. That’s the real thing,” was the defending champion’s comment following his victory.
Thiem should provide a sterner test in the last eight, after the fifth seed came from a set down to beat Djokovic.
Nadal has lost twice to Thiem on clay, but produced a dominant display in the French Open semi-finals last year en route to his 10th Roland Garros title.
“It’s going to be a difficult match,” the 31-year-old Nadal agreed. “(Thiem) is a player that plays so good in every surface, but especially on clay. He hits the ball hard.
“I can’t let him play from good positions because he has lot of power… I need to play aggressive, with a higher intensity than him, then we’ll see.”
Meanwhile Thiem, a two-time French Open semi-finalist, was the better player for much of his match against Djokovic and won 6-7(2) 6-2 6-3.
“It’s (a) way better feeling if you go against him (Nadal) and know that you’ve beaten him already on this surface,” said the 24-year-old Thiem.
“But it’s the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him. I have to raise my level again. I think I’m able to do that.”
The Austrian though, believed that it won’t be long before Djokovic will be mixing itwith the tp players. “I think he’s on the rise again, for sure,” Thiem said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to see him at the very top of the game pretty soon.”
Third seed Alexander Zverev came through a three-set tussle with fellow German Jan-Lennard Struff despite getting frustrated in the second set as he continuously wasted opportunities and tripping over an advertising cushion which he deemed to be dangerous. Nonetheless he kept his focus sufficiently long enough to win 6-4 4-6 6-4.
Belgian sixth seed David Goffin held off a late fightback from Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the last eight with a 6-4 7-5 win in a match that saw the Spaniard accidentally hit a ball boy with the ball.
“I just saw the ball going straight to the ball boy. I was surprised he only had a warning. For me, if you send a ball at the head of a ball boy, you’re out,” Goffin said later. “I don’t know what the rules are exactly and how he could only get a warning. He was saying the ball bounced, and the ball boy just happened to be there. Unlucky for him.”
Goffin will play fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the semi-finals in a repeat of last year’s ATP Tour Finals final, after the Bulgarian came back from a set and a break down to beat Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6 6-3 6-4.
Second seed Marin Cilic is also into the last eight, after Milos Raonic pulled out with a right knee injury before their third-round match. The 14th seed, a former Wimbledon runner-up, struggled with the problem during his second-round win over Marco Cecchinato on Wednesday.
“It was difficult yesterday early in the match, I rotated on my knee. I thought through treatment and so-forth it would be better,” Raonic said. “I was predisposed to some risk and I was unable to play with that amount of pain. I’ll know more in the (coming) days.”
Second seed Cilic progresses to a last-eight tie where Japan’s Kei Nishikori awaits following his 66-0 2-6 6-3 win over Andreas Seppi.