June 14th, 2024

He’s back: Djokovic reaches semifinals at Monte Carlo Masters for first time since 2015

By The Associated Press on April 12, 2024.

MONACO (AP) – Novak Djokovic is back in the semifinals at the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time since 2015.

Nine years after he won the last of his two titles at the clay-court tournament, the top-ranked Serb secured a spot in the last four with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Alex De Minaur on Friday.

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

Djokovic struggled with consistency at the Country Club against his Australian rival and dropped his serve three times. But De Minaur, who made Djokovic work and run a lot with his solid baseline game, had even more trouble with his serve.

Djokovic broke De Minaur five times to move into a record-breaking 77th Masters 1000 semifinal.

At 36, Djokovic is the oldest semifinalist in the tournament’s Open era, which began in 1968.

De Minaur could not hold his nerve when it mattered the most. He hit five unforced errors when Djokovic broke to seal the opening set and could not withstand the pressure applied by the 24-time Grand Slam champion in the 10th game of the second set.

“It was tough and very tiring, I suffered a lot on the court,” Djokovic said. “This is what you get on this slow surface with a lot of rallies.”

There were seven breaks of serve in the second set, and Djokovic said he did not play at his best. He is using the tournament to fine-tune his preparations for the French Open next month.

“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,” Djokovic said. “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.”

Djokovic will next take on either Ugo Humbert or clay-court expert Casper Ruud for a spot in the final.

Earlier, Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner overcame strong resistance from Holger Rune to reach the semifinals for the second straight year and set up a meeting with two-time champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Rune saved two match points in the second-set tiebreaker before Sinner came out on top with a 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win. The match was a repeat of last year’s semifinal, when Rune beat Sinner at the clay-court tournament.

Tsitsipas eased into the semifinals by defeating Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-2.

Rune saved two consecutive match points in the tiebreaker, including one with a big forehand winner. But he cracked in the eighth game of the decider after Sinner earned two break points with a superb backhand return, double-faulting on the next point.

Tsitsipas dropped only five points on his first serve and hit 20 winners to improve his record against his Russian rival to 8-1.

The 12th-ranked Greek player arrived in the Principality on the back of a mediocre start to the season, having reached the semifinals at just one tournament. He has not dropped a set at the Country Club, where he claimed back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022.

“I would lie if I said it doesn’t bring good memories stepping out on this court,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s something that I attribute some of my performances here over time to. I come back here, and I sort of relive those memories of the past.”

Khachanov called the physio at 2-2 in the second set to get treatment on his leg but did not seem hampered in his movement afterward.

“He seemed good and well composed in his tennis,” Tsitsipas said. “He wasn’t giving away too many unforced errors and seemed pretty calm from behind the baseline.”


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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