Goffin Scores His Biggest Win Yet Over Djokovic in Monte Carlo

Congrats to Goffin who scored his first win over a top-three player today when he defeated Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 in a very entertaining match in Monte Carlo. Both players looked like they would win at different stages of the match which I always think is a prerequisite for a high-quality match.

Goffin took the early initiative with a pretty flawless first set. Then the third game of the second set was a big game where Djokovic was 15-40 down on his serve facing two breaks points. He did very well to hold on to his serve after which he was a transformed player.

Playing like the Djokovic of old, he won the second set and went a break up in the third. At this stage, you felt like Djokovic would be hard to stop which makes Goffin’s come back so good. He broke back at 3-4 with one of those perfectly placed backhand down-the-line winners which is a trademark shot for Goffin.

With Djokovic serving at 5-6, he was clutch as usual by saving five match points and Goffin had to paint the baseline with a groundstroke to eventually force Djokovic into error and get the win.

So if you are Djokovic you can’t really feel bad about the loss. It will hurt because he wanted to play Nadal and win the tournament but he didn’t lose the match. Goffin won it with superb tennis instead.

I think Djokovic did very well to get into a winning position after Goffin looked early on like he may get the job done in straight sets. I think he also tired at the end of the third set after a pretty brutal first week on clay.

There was a point at 5-6 and deuce where it was especially noticeable. It was another brutal baseline rally where Djokovic made some great defensive plays and got into a good position but hit a regulation forehand long out of sheer exhaustion.

It’s not really surprising after his third consecutive three-set match which included many brutal baseline rallies so there is no reason to be discouraged by this loss. If he was fresher he would probably have gotten the win and faced Nadal in the semis.

But maybe it is better this way because facing Nadal who looks to be close to his best again when he is tired could have cost him. At least his seven-match winning streak against one of his big rivals is still intact and if he faces him later in the clay court season he will have a better shot.

Djokovic looked extremely determined either way and gave it his all which is a good sign. He just ran out of steam in the end but given what has happened so far this year I think this week was as good as he could have hoped for.

He spent a lot of time on the court and got two important wins. It’s a shame we won’t have the Djokodal semi-final but if Djokovic keeps this up we will surely see them facing each other on clay soon.

Next for Djokovic is Madrid which gives him some more time to rest his elbow and I think with this start he could be in top form come the French Open. All in all, I think it was a very encouraging start to the clay court season and Djokovic fans have reason to have renewed hope.

  • Elsewhere in the Draw

It was nice to see Ramos-Vinolas continue his good form and make his first Masters semis by defeating Cilic 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2. He now plays Pouille who defeated Cuevas in another three-setter 6-0, 3-6, 7-5.

Nadal defeated Schwartzman 6-4, 6-4. I just saw the first game where Schwarzman broke Nadal to love after which Nadal must have played well to win by that scoreline. I think Nadal will win the title now with relative ease.

It will be a good start to the clay court season for him but we will see what happens in Madrid ad Rome. If Nadal wins Monte Carlo I don’t think it makes him a lock for the French Open title. Madrid and Rome is a better indicator of who will be the French Open favorite.

  • Highlights

Murray Continues to Disappoint as World Number One with Monte Carlo Loss

I’m currently preparing for exams but I’m trying to keep up with posting. Today was an interesting day in Monte Carlo with Murray and Wawrinka both losing while Nadal and Djokovic continued to progress.

Murray lost 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 to Ramos-Vinolas and not only lost from a set up but from 4-0 in the third set as well. Clearly, all Murray’s effort went into reaching the number one ranking at the end of last year and he now has nothing left.

There is no way he should be losing from 4-0 up in the third against Ramos and this is now his third early exit in a big tournament since the beginning of the year. He still has a sizeable lead in the rankings thanks to Djokovic’s slump but it’s been a very disappointing run for him as the world number one.

  • Djokovic Toughs Out Another Important Win

Djokovic, on the other hand, is not going to go down that easily. He toughed out another 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Carreno-Busta despite struggling again with his form. His lack of finishing power at the net, and in particular his overhead, is giving him nightmares but he is still finding a way around it.

He started very well as he went a set and a break up at 2-o in the second set but then slumped to 2-3. In the next game, he had two break back points at 40-15 on Busta’s serve but failed to put away an overhead and as a result failed to break back.

He also managed to dropped serve again to go down 2-5. He got one break back but at least but the damage was done. In the third set, the madness continued as Djokovic raised his game to break and take a 4-2 lead, only to lose the break right away with more disastrous finishing at the net.

At deuce, he missed an absolute sitter backhand volley wide and on break point, he hit another shocking overhead into the net. Then he came awfully close to getting broken himself while serving at 4-4 and 15-40.

Now he was flirting with disaster but came up with two clutch points to save himself and held serve. In the final game, he came back from 0-30 down to reel off four straight points for the victory. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective.

It was similar to Djokovic’s first round match. He is obviously still lacking confidence but these are the kinds of wins that will bring his confidence back. He now plays Goffin who defeated 6th seed Thiem 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3. The head-to-head is 5-0 in Djokovic’s favor but who knows what will happen with Djokovic in his current form.

Goffin is a very competent opponent but maybe Djokovic can raise his level from his first two matches. I hope he does because I’d love to see a Djokodal semi-final.

  • Nadal Raises His Game Against Zverev

Nadal easily defeated Zverev 6-1, 6-1 which was disappointing from Zverev but it seems Nadal means business. He wasn’t looking very convincing in his first match against Edmund but maybe he has now found his confidence on clay.

He next plays Schwartzman who is only 1.7 m tall but who has a very nice baseline game. Nadal shouldn’t have much trouble but we will see. Schwartzman is a tenacious player who moves very well and can come up with some surprisingly good groundstrokes.

Then Wawrinka lost 6-4, 6-4 to Cuevas whose game I’m a fan of. He has an especially nice-looking one-handed backhand. He totally outplayed Stan and will now play Pouille so he has a decent shot at making semis. Maybe he can even make the final because if he wins he will play the winner of Ramos and Cilic, who defeated Berdych in straight sets after his ex-coach Ivanisevic is now coaching Berdych!

So the top half is pretty open with the exit of Murray and Stan while the winner will probably come from the bottom half. Talk soon!

  • Highlights

Monte Carlo Draws Djokovic and Nadal in Same Half

Click image to enlarge 

In many ways, the clay court season is a new beginning to the tennis season. For whoever have failed to make an impression in 2017 it is not too late. The bulk of the tennis season still remains and although Federer dominated the first few months of 2017 there is still plenty of time for someone else to dominate. Especially since Federer will be missing three Masters events during the clay court season.

In Monte Carlo, the top four seeds are also the top four favorites for the French Open. Djokovic and Nadal fell in the same half which means Murray and Wawrinka are drawn to play in the semis.

Nadal got Zverev in his section of the draw which can get tricky but Djokovic got recent Indian Wells semi-finalist Busta in his section and Thiem or Goffin in the quarters. He seems to be getting one tough draw after the other these days but it’s time he started winning too.

I hope we get a Djokovic vs Nadal semi-final in the bottom half but both have work to do before they get there.

  • The Clay Court Season: Djokovic’s Resurrection?

Since Wimbledon last year, Djokovic had his worst results since 2007 I think. During that 9-month period, he won the Canada Masters and Doha and made the US Open final and the World Tour Finals final.

Some players would love to have those results but given what Djokovic achieved in the 2-year period before that, it was a steep fall. Some people predicted this could happen. And they were right.

But given how successful he was during that 2-year period, it is not that surprising either. It was probably the most successful stretch in tennis history where Djokovic won 6/8 grand slams, 2/2 World Tour Finals, and 10/18 Masters.

Eventually, it was going to take a toll. But despite much talk of Djokovic’s poor form, I don’t think he has been poor in 2017. He started well with the title in Doha where he defeated Murray in the final but then had that shock loss to Istomin in Australia, a couple of tough draws in Acapulco and Indian Wells, and the injury in Maimi.

I think he has played well but failed to string wins together and get back into the winning habit. Eventually, he has to come good again and the clay court season is as good a time as any for that to happen.

There are never any guarantees, but with a Davis Cup victory behind him, no Federer to worry about until Paris, and a slow surface, it is a good opportunity for him to kickstart his season. 2017 is far from a lost cause for Djokovic.

There is currently a lot of hype surrounding Nadal who has shown some signs of improvement in 2017 and although he has won no titles in 2017 yet, many people think he is going to take the clay court season by storm.

Maybe he will. Or maybe he won’t. A meeting in Monte Carlo between him and Djokovic can certainly be a preview of what is to come during the clay court season. Djokovic currently owns Nadal having not lost a set against the Spaniard in their last seven meetings.

Maybe if they meet on clay Nadal will finally get his revenge. Or maybe a match with Nadal is just what Djokovic needs right now to bring out his best tennis again. We will just have to see. Nadal can certainly win a 10th French Open this year.

I definitely won’t dismiss that possibility after what Federer has achieved so far this year. 2017 may be the return of Fedal. But I feel like Djokovic also started 2017 well after he undoubtedly slumped in the second half of 2016. And I think he just may be on the brink of something good himself.

Murray is another player who will be looking to get his season kickstarted on clay after he’s had a disappointing season as number one so far. Last year he certainly proved himself on clay. And then there is Stan whose record on clay speaks for itself.

Let’s get this party started!

Who will win Monte Carlo?

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