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Tennis Shocker • Dan Evans Upsets Novak Djokovic at Monte-Carlo Masters, Nadal and Rublev Advance to Quarterfinals

Daniel Evans in action against Novak Djokovic at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

By Ricky Dimon

Novak Djokovic said following his ninth Australian Open title in February that he would focus pretty much exclusively on the Grand Slams this year.

He might have been perfectly serious.

Djokovic skipped the Miami Open–along with many other top players–and then lost in round three of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Thursday afternoon. The world No. 1 went down to Dan Evans, whose worst surface is clay, via a 6-4, 7-5 upset. Evans converted five of seven break points to prevail after two hours and seven minutes for the biggest win of his roller-coaster career. The 30-year-old Brit is through to a Masters 1000 quarterfinal for the first time ever.

“The biggest thing is, you have got to believe you can win,” Evans explained. “I can walk on saying it, but you have really got to believe it. Of course, I doubted myself in the match. Serving it out is not easy; you have got all sorts [of things] running through your head. I am just happy with how it went and it will be one to savor for maybe after the tournament, to tell the kids and grandkids that you beat the world No. 1. It is a nice one.”

“He deserved to win,” Djokovic assured. “He was a better player–just more focused I guess and played with a better quality in the decisive moments. This has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in [recent] years.”

As for Rafael Nadal, he was the beneficiary of a bad performance on Thursday. Nadal took advantage of a struggling Grigor Dimitrov to dominate 6-1, 6-1 in a mere 56 minutes.

Rafael Nadal (R) shakes hands with Grigor Dimitrov (L) after their third round match at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

“[I am] sorry for him,” the No. 3 seed said of Dimitrov, who was reportedly dealing with a tooth infection. “He played a bad match. That is the truth. He made a lot of mistakes…. I was doing the right thing, but it is true that today was more his fault than my good tennis.”

Nadal can expect a much tougher test from Andrey Rublev, who has been one of the best players on tour dating back to the start of 2020. However, Rublev may be fatigued following a 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3 battle against Roberto Bautista Agut that lasted two hours and 45 minutes. It was without question the best match of the tournament and arguably one of the best of the season so far.

Andrey Rublev in action during his third round match against Roberto Bautista Agut at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

“It was an unreal match,” Rublev reflected. “He’s such a consistent player. He’s really tough to beat; you have to show your best tennis to beat him. Just to win one rally you have to hit 20 shots maybe.”

When told that it would be exciting to play against Nadal on clay for the first time, the eighth-ranked Russian replied, “not really!”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.