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Djokovic gains Musetti revenge in Monte-Carlo


Novak Djokovic was not at his best on Thursday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but he did enough to gain revenge against Lorenzo Musetti at the Masters 1000 clay-court event.

Twelve months ago, the Serbian suffered a third-round defeat to the Italian in the Principality and history threatened to repeat itself at this year’s edition after Musetti led by a break in the first set.

However, defeating Djokovic twice is no easy feat and the World No. 1 refused to succumb, finding enough consistency at crucial moments to advance to the quarter-finals 7-5, 6-3.

“It was a little exchange with the crowd at 4-3, 40/0 for him in the first set and ever since then I gained momentum,” Djokovic said when asked how he turned the tide in the opening set. “He lost focus a little bit. He was the better player for those first seven games, played some great tennis. Played really good shots and made me run. But this is clay and obviously things can turn around very quickly and a break of serve is not as a big advantage on this surface compared to the other surfaces. We saw a little bit of a rollercoaster in the second set, so I am pleased that staying tough and aggressive in the tight moments paid off.”

The 36-year-old is competing in his first event since splitting with former coach Goran Ivanisevic. The top seed, who has Nenad Zimonjic in his box this week, cut a frustrated figure at times in the first set against Musetti, who caused the Serbian problems with his court craft.

However, the Serbian gained the decisive break in the 12th game of the first set before he played with greater intensity and freedom in the second set to reach the last eight after one hour and 59 minutes. Djokovic finished with a 18-23 winners to unforced errors count according to Infosys ATP Stats.

“I don’t think I am still at my top level but it was a great test today against a great player, a very talented player,” Djokovic said. “I lost to him last year here, similar circumstances. I was a set and 4-2 up and I must say it was in the back of my mind when I was serving at 4-2, 40/15 and lost my serve today. I thought, ‘Oh no, hopefully this is not similar scenario like last year’. I am really glad to overcome the challenge and look forward to the next one.”

Djokovic now leads the 22-year-old 4-1 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series and will next meet Alex de Minaur after the Australian beat countryman Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-4 to become the first Aussie to reach the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo since Mark Philippoussis in 1999.

Djokovic is a two-time champion in the Principality, triumphing in 2013 and 2015. He has failed to advance beyond the quarter-final stage since his last title victory nine years ago but will hope to change that record when he meets De Minaur on Friday.

The 98-time tour-level champion is aiming to win the title in Monte-Carlo for the third time. If he achieves that, he will have won each Masters 1000 event at least three times and move to 1100 wins.

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