Djokovic Survives Spanish Test

Novak Djokovic showcased the temperament of a champion on Thursday night just as victory in his third-round clash against Pablo Carreno Busta appeared to be eluding him at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

The second seed and two-time former champion saved two break points in a tense ninth game of the deciding set en route to a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 15 seed Carreno Busta, which lasted two hours and 26 minutes.

“[It was] a very similar match like the one against [Gilles] Simon,” admitted Djokovic. “[I] started well and everything seemed to be working. I played very solid from the back of the court. I didn’t give him too much time. Just felt comfortable at a set and 2-0. Then five games in a row… A lot of unforced errors again.

“At the end, again, 4-2 in the third set, [I had an] easy put away backhand volley smash. I could have easily lost this match. He had quite an easy shot at 15/40 and 4-4, and he missed it… I’ll try to take the positives out of it. I think I’ve done well in certain parts of the match.”

Djokovic will now prepare for a clash against 10th seed David Goffin of Belgium. The Serbian has lost just one set in five matches against Goffin and leads 5-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“He’s a great guy, someone I of course respect a lot,” said Djokovic. “He’s very quiet, he’s hard-working [and is a] very talented player. He comes out [and] does his job. Of course, he’s one of the quickest guys, has one of the best footwork and one of the best double-handed backhands. He beat Thiem today, [who is] definitely one of the best players on this surface in the world. For sure is going to be a tough one.”

Although Djokovic saved three break points in a 12-point first game, the Serbian star won six straight games from 2-2 in the first set to a 2-0 lead in the second set. Incredibly, he then let Carreno Busta back into the pair’s second meeting (2014 Monte-Carlo) by losing three successive service games. Although Djokovic pressed the Spaniard into error to recover to 4-5, Carreno Busta took the 55-minute set to ensure a decider.

Djokovic led 4-2 in the third set, but quickly found himself serving at 4-4, 15/40 with Carreno Busta sensing another upset, hours after World No. 1 Andy Murray and 2014 titlist Stan Wawrinka left the Monte-Carlo Country Club for another year.

On Carreno Busta’s first break point chance, he got Djokovic off balance with a lob, but snatched at a backhand and hit the ball into the net. At 30/40, Djokovic opted for power and in advancing to the net gained another backhand error from his opponent. Minutes later, Djokovic struck a drive volley forehand winner for his 30th match win at the historic clay-court tournament.

Monaco resident Djokovic, who won the 2013 (d. Nadal) and 2015 (d. Berdych) titles, is looking to add to his 30 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns this week.

Earlier in the day, Goffin recorded his sixth victory in nine meetings against Dominic Thiem, the sixth seed, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 15 minutes. Goffin fought back from a 2-5 deficit in the first set, having saving one set point with Thiem serving at 5-4, 40/30. Goffin, a runner-up in Sofia and Rotterdam this season, improves to a 22-7 match record in 2017.

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