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Djokovic Battles to hard-fought De Minaur win in Monte-Carlo


Novak Djokovic moved to within just two wins of completing his third sweep of all nine ATP Masters 1000 titles on Friday when he advanced to the semi-finals at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters for the first time since triumphing in 2015.

In a tight clash against Alex de Minaur, the World No. 1 was not at his fluid best but found the required level to earn a 7-5, 6-4 win. With his two-hour, four-minute victory, the Serbian avenged his recent United Cup loss to the Australian to improve to 2-1 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

The 36-year-old, who on Sunday became the oldest No. 1 in PIF ATP Rankings history, is chasing a record-extending 41st ATP Masters 1000 crown this week. Should he lift the trophy, it would mark the top seed’s third sweep of all nine Masters 1000 tournaments.

“It was tough for both of us. He is one of the quickest players on Tour. He gets a lot of balls back that normally 99 per cent of other players don’t. He did not surprise me with several passing shots. Particularly in the second set when I was up a break,” Djokovic said.

“But he said at the net it was ugly. The second set I think it was. We didn’t play at the high level and made a lot of unforced errors, him and I, and a lot of breaks of serve. It is kind of expected on clay but maybe not this many. But a win is a win and I am happy to be through.”

In a tight clash, Djokovic looked breathless at times on Court Rainier III, frequently slumping over after lengthy exchanges. However, as has been the way in his career, the top seed battled on and capitalised on errors from De Minaur on key points to eventually prevail.

The Australian committed five unforced errors when serving to stay in the first set at 5-6. Neither player could hold serve consistently in the second set, with seven breaks of serve in the set. Djokovic gained the decisive break in the 10th game to eventually prevail.

The World No. 1 has triumphed in Monte-Carlo in 2013 and 2015, but before this week had not prevailed past the quarter-final stage since 2015. He will continue the quest for his first title of the year when he meets Frenchman Ugo Humbert or Norwegian Casper Ruud in the last four on Saturday.

“I am very happy to be back in the semis. It has been a while,” Djokovic said. “I love this tournament. I love this club very well, I have been training at this club for many years. The past seven, eight years has been tough for me to win seven or eight matches consecutively, but here we are, another semis.”

Aged 36, Djokovic is the oldest semi-finalist in the tournament’s Open Era history. If he wins the title on Sunday, he will move to 1100 tour-level victories. Only Roger Federer (1,251) has more tour-level wins in the Open Era.

De Minaur was competing in his first quarter-final in Monte-Carlo. The 25-year-old, who triumphed on hard courts in Acapulco earlier this year, is up one spot to No. 10 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings.

Did You Know?
Djokovic is into a record-breaking 77th ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

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