Novak Djokovic has been eliminated from the Monte Carlo Masters after losing his quarterfinal 3-6, 6-4, 2-6 to No. 10 seed Daniil Medvedev.
But he double-faulted, giving the second-ranked Nadal an unexpected reprieve which he took full advantage of. "He's able to win against anybody when he's playing well and I believe he's playing well". Lajovic has won six of his last nine matches on clay court.
"It was a physically and mentally draining set, especially losing my first three service games". It's kind of tough to find the rhythm, and he doesn't give you much. "It's expected in a way for me to peak right at that tournament, because that's what I'm aiming for", Djokovic said. Even 17-time Grand Slam victor Nadal, who has lost 28 times in 53 contests against the toughest rival of his career, was surprised. "But everybody is human".
Nadal next plays No. 9 Borna Coric of Croatia or No.13 Fabio Fognini of Italy.
"I'm just happy to get the win in two sets".
This is a match Medvedev could win in straight sets.
Although Nadal won the next four games to level at 5-5, he dropped his wayward serve again.
Djokovic won the Australian Open this year to secure a third straight Grand Slam title and 15th overall, moving two behind Nadal and five adrift of Roger Federer's record haul of 20. So Pella will have regrets, considering he was serving for a 5-1 first-set lead when he double-faulted. Everything looked great for Daniil in the opening six games, securing breaks in the second and sixth games to create the gap and nearly wrap up the opener. Pella could not hold his serve, either.
The Serbian has twice won the Monte Carlo tournament, most recently in 2015, but there never appeared to be a chance of it being a hat-trick here as Medvedev controlled much of the match.
Djokovic double-faulted at 30-30 to give Medvedev his first match point and a backhand victor secured a first win against Djokovic at the fourth attempt, and a first victory against a No. 1.
His 23-year-old Russian opponent next faces the unseeded Dusan Lajovic, who also reached a Masters semi-final for the first time when he beat Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 7-5.
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