Novak Djokovic, the world number one, was bundled out of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters – an event he has won on two previous occasions and was expected to make the final again this year for a fifth time.
He kept me waiting in the changing rooms before the match so that was a little annoying – got me a little extra fired up, Dan Evans
He was ousted out by the British number one, Dan Evans ranked 33 in world terms, during their third round encounter, exiting at that stage for only the third time in his career.
It followed a brilliant performance by Evans completed over two hours and 6-minutes, who was able to overcome the difficult windy conditions better than his higher rated adversary, and defeat the increasingly frustrated Serbian 6-4 7-5, delivering Djokovic his first defeat of the season following a 10-match winning streak.
As regards his performance, the top seed wasn’t happy with it whilst reluctantly giving credit to his opponent.
“Congratulations to him,” he said. “I mean, he deserved to win. He was a better player. Just more focused I guess and played with a better quality in the decisive moments.
“This has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side [that] I can recall in the last years. I don’t want to take anything away from his win but, from my side, I just felt awful on the court overall. Just nothing worked. It’s one of those days.
“I can’t take anything positive away from this match. It’s not the first, neither the last, loss but definitely leaves a bitter feeling exiting the court this way.”
With regard to Evan’s game, he was extremely positive about it following their first meeting on court.
“He’s got a really all-around game,” Djokovic said. “He’s really a nice player to watch, not a great player to play against. Lots of talent. He’s very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game.”
Evans, following the best win of his career, admitted that Djokovic’s actions before the match had fired him up sufficiently to rock the Serbian as he romped into a 3-0 lead..
“He kept me waiting in the changing rooms before the match so that was a little annoying – got me a little extra fired up,” Evans told Tim Henman during the post-match interview on Amazon Prime.
“It’s one against one, got to roll the balls out and see who wins. He gave me some cheap ones today, which he never normally does, so I was a little lucky there, but I’m just really happy with coming through.”
Having lost the first three games, Djokovic raised his game to level at 4-4 but Evans maintained his own level and patiently traded shots from the back of the court while varying angles and pace to keep the top seed off balance.
Another break of serve gave the Brit the opportunity to serve for the set, and he clinched it on his third chance.
Djokovic’s response was immediate. Stung by the loss of the set he took the initiative in the second to lead 3-0 but Evans didn’t allow him to settle and pulled back to level.
The pair fought it out toe-to-toe and it was Djokovic who eventually crumbled at 5-5 when he double faulted – his fourth of the match – to hand Evans the crucial break.
The British No.1 did not require another invitation to claim the best win of his career, securing it with a forehand passing shot for a place in the quarter-finals of a Masters 1000 event for the first time. There he will face David Goffin, the Belgian who had earlier caused his own upset by eliminating the fifth seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4 7-6(7) after one hour and 51-minutes.
“Of course it gives me a lot of confidence,” Goffin said after reaching his third quarter-final at the Principality.
“Today was more [about] the way I played. Everything was there. This match, I served well, I was solid. I was very precise with my forehand, aggressive when I had to [be]. [It] was a great match,” he told the ATP Tour website.
Looking ahead to his meeting with Evans, he added: “Of course, you’re always surprised when Novak is losing before the final, especially against a guy that on paper is not a clay-court specialist. But if you see Dan, he’s an amazing, talented player. I always thought that he could play on every surface.”
Meanwhile the King of Clay required just 55-minutes to dispatch the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov for the loss of just two games, one in each set!
Rafa Nadal, chasing his 12th Monte Carlo title, lost 26 points overall as he dominated his rival with five breaks, losing only eight points behind his first serve for his 14th victory in 15 matches against Dimitrov, the 14th seed.
It was a performance which continues to underline the Spaniard’s enduring superiority on European clay
In other action, Stefanos Tsitsipas achieved his best Monte Carlo result when he overcame Santiago champion Cristian Garin 6-3 6-4 to reach his first quarter-final in the Principality after 100-minutes.
“It was a really difficult task to complete. Cristian played good tennis and gave me a hard time out on the court,” Tsitsipas said in his post-match interview. “I stayed composed and focused throughout the entire match.
“Things seemed not to be going my way towards the end of the second set, but I stepped back and left my mark. Things worked out well. I was fighting [and] I was putting my best performance out there. I was creating a lot of opportunities with my forehand and I think my serve paid off pretty well.”
Tsitsipas will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for a place in the semi-final after the Spaniard defeated the French wildcard Lucas Pouille 6-2 7-6(2).
“[Alejandro] is someone who is just rising, he is young and has been playing good tennis,” Tsitsipas said. “I don’t know him very well, but he is a Spaniard. I feel like he has played on clay before, plenty of matches. He knows the surface pretty well, so he is going to be a challenge for me.”
The reigning Monte Carlo champion, Italy’s Fabio Fognini keeps his hopes of retaining his title alive following his 6-2 7-6(1) defeat of Filip Krajinovic of Serbia while Norway’s Casper Ruud continues to surprise, this time taking out the 12th seed from Spain, Pablo Carreno-Busta 7-6(4) 5-7 7-5.
Finally the 6th seed from Russia Andrey Rublev outlasted the 9th seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(2) 5-7 6-3 and will face Nadal for a place in the semi-finals.