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Djokovic suffers shock defeat to Medvedev at Monte-Carlo Masters

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 19 Apr 2019
  • Daniil Medvedev defeats Novak Djokovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
  • Medvedev to face Dusan Lajovic in semifinals after biggest win of his career
  • Djokovic's poor results post-Australian Open continue
Daniil Medvedev celebrates beating Novak Djokovic at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Novak Djokovic suffered a shock defeat to Daniil Medvedev at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

Rising Russian Daniil Medvedev collected the biggest win of his career as he defeated world no. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Friday.

World no. 14 Medvedev had never beaten Djokovic and went 1-5 on clay in 2018, but the 23-year-old Russian outlasted and outplayed Djokovic in an 142-minute encounter in breezy conditions at the first clay-court Masters 1000 Series event of the year.

Djokovic is now 3-5 since winning his fifteenth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.

Medvedev had taken sets from Djokovic in both their previous hard-court encounters, including at the Australian Open in January when he made the world no. 1 run and run for 3 hours and 15 minutes before capitulating in four. But they had never met on clay, something which seemed like it should have worked in Djokovic's favour, given that Medvedev had never won back-to-back main-draw matches on clay at ATP Tour level before.

But on a breezy day at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, with clay dust swirling thickly between points for much of the first two sets, it was Medvedev who got off to a brilliant start, whipping a forehand winner past Djokovic to break in the very first game. Djokovic was clearly struggling to find his range, mangling an overhead to go down 0-40 at 1-3, but dug out a hold to stay just one break behind. It was to no avail, however, as Medvedev pressured another poor overhead miss from the Serb before winning a duel of drop-shots to break for a second time and lead 6-3.

For most men, trying to outlast Djokovic in lengthy rallies is a suicide mission. Not so for Medvedev, whose extraordinary steadiness from the baseline was a match for Djokovic's own in the Monte-Carlo Masters quarterfinals - more than a match, as it turned out, with 46 of the rallies in the match lasting more than nine points. While Djokovic's level fluctuated in the match, Medvedev's remained steady even while his temper was tested.

Medvedev had an opportunity to break immediately in the second set, but it was Djokovic who came out on the right end of a lengthy rally and then a lengthy game, holding for 1-1 after more than eight minutes. Djokovic climbed to 15-40 on Medvedev's serve at 1-1, but was left standing and staring by a forehand winner on to the line for 30-40, then missed a shot off the same wing himself for deuce. 

However, Djokovic swung the second set decisively in his favour on the next point when he landed a drop shot that even the fleet-footed Medvedev could not chase down, leaving the Russian kicking the branded box next to the net in frustration, causing a nearby ballgirl to flinch and the umpire to hand Medvedev a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. Medvedev protested furiously, claiming double standards since Djokovic had not got the same punishment for a similar infraction at the back of the court, but it was to no avail and Djokovic, to add insult to injury, promptly broke serve with another drop shot followed up by a lob.

Djokovic consolidated the break over Medvedev, who spent the changeover following it ranting angrily at the umpire, and took charge of the set, but didn't have things all his own way - he had to dig himself out of a 0-30 hole at 4-3 to hold. More and more, however, it seemed that Medvedev had only succeeded in forcing the world no. 1 to play some of his best tennis as Djokovic's forehand found the lines, he landed some exquisite drop shots and, for good measure, slammed back-to-back aces down the T to level up 3-6, 6-4.

The top seed seemed to have found his range and have all the momentum heading into the third set, especially as Medvedev required attention from the trainer on both thighs (which were visibly taped) at the beginning of the decider. But after holding from 0-30, Medvedev unexpectedly found himself at 15-30 on the Djokovic serve. The Serb won a 41-shot rally and led 40-30, but double-faulted on game point, followed by a drop shot attempt into the net to give up break point, which Medvedev converted when Djokovic's forehand drifted long.

Medvedev swiftly consolidated the break to lead 4-1, then broke again after Djokovic played two failed drop shots on consecutive points. The Russian's first attempt to serve out the match did not go as planned, Djokovic breaking back to 2-5, but the world no. 1 served his third double fault of the match to go down match point and Medvedev sealed a huge victory with a backhand winner.

'He's got a very solid backhand. He doesn't make many mistakes from the backhand. He hits it very low with depth. A windy day like today, conditions are changing every single game. It's kind of tough to find the rhythm, and he doesn't give you much rhythm,' Djokovic said of his opponent. 

'He improved his movement a lot since last year. He definitely deserves to be where he is.'

The manner of Djokovic's defeat should leave him asking himself some tough questions: The conditions may have been tricky, but the way that he failed to regroup and let the match slip out of his hands after the double fault at 0-1, 40-30, losing five of the next seven games, should concern him. It is a long road to Roland Garros, however, and there is no doubt that the ultimate measure of success or failure for the world no. 1 on clay is whether he can succeed in wresting that French Open title out of Nadal's hands.

Medvedev now has an immense opportunity to reach his first clay-court Masters 1000 Series final, as he will face the unseeded Dusan Lajovic, the world no. 50, in Saturday's semifinals. Medvedev won his only previous meeting with Lajovic, who stunned French Open finalist Dominic Thiem in the round of 16, 6-2, 6-1.

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Djokovic suffers shock defeat to Medvedev at Monte-Carlo Masters

Rising Russian Daniil Medvedev collected the biggest win of his career as he defeated world no. 1 Djokovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

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