Novak Djokovic suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Lorenzo Musetti in a rain-interrupted thriller, whilst reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas progressed comfortably at the Monte-Carlo Masters on Thursday.
Whilst Djokovic has admitted that he is working his way into form at the beginning of the clay season, it was expected that the Monaco resident would have the better over his Italian opponent. Musetti, like all the Italians in action on Thursday, was well-supported, but that looked to count for little in the opening exchanges.
Djokovic edged the first set (6-4), but neither player could hold their serve (15 breaks of serve during the match), particularly at the end of a tense second set. Both players held in their first service games in the deciding third set before torrential rain suspended play. Many of the thousands of fans that packed the courts of the Monte-Carlo Country Club (MCCC), who counted amongst their ranks Olympic Gold medalist Usain Bolt, headed for the exits. Perhaps, in hindsight, many regret that decision, with the thrilling tie later getting back underway.
The rain may have stopped, but Djokovic’s troubles continued. Musetti made the decisive break in the seventh game of the third set, and saw out the victory, despite faltering towards the end of his final service game (6-4, 5-7, 4-6). It is the biggest win of Musetti’s young career, and his reward – an all-Italian quarter-final against Jannik Sinner. “The feeling is terrible after playing like this, honestly. We move on,” said Djokovic in a laconic post-match press conference.
Stefanos Tsitsipas into the quarter-finals
Unlike Djokovic, Monaco resident Tsitsipas is yet to come under pressure during this year’s tournament, he is yet to drop a set, and that run continued against Chilean Nicolás Jarry. The Greek player was prolific on his serve, albeit profligate in taking his break-point opportunities. Ultimately, that wastefulness (2/10 breakpoints) was of little consequence with a break per set enough to wrap the game up, and progress to the quarter-finals.
Prior to Tsitsipas’ victory, Sinner, Musetti’s quarter-final opponent, drew the crowds to the Court Rainier III in the opening slot. There has been a wealth of Italian talent on display at this year’s Monte-Carlo Masters, and they have been buoyed by the travelling Tifosi, who have been in good voice. The stands were awash with the Italian flag as Sinner progressed at the expense of Polish player Hubert Hurkacz in a three-set thriller (6-3, 6-7, 1-6).
Romain Arneodo and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn beat last year’s winners
In the doubles, Arneodo and his Austrian partner Tristan-Samuel Weissborn came into Thursday’s match high on confidence after beating a team consisting of former world number two Alexander Zverev on Wednesday.
However, Arneodo’s serve was instantly put under pressure by the pairing of Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram. However, the Anglophone pair didn’t take their chance, and they wouldn’t get many more.
Arneodo and Weissborn were in attack mode and broke twice, whilst the pressure on their own service games was reduced. Having taken the first set (6-2), there was no let-up. Arneodo and Weissborn broke in the third game of the second set before breaking them for a second time.
They then just had to serve out for the victory but missed all three of their match points on their way to being broken. Scare over, Arneodo and Weissborn wrestled back control, and broke in the next game to seal their progression to the quarter-final (6-2, 6-3).
“I expected it to be a lot more difficult,” admitted Arneodo to Monaco Life post-match. “I thought if we were going to win it, it would have been a lot closer. I was a bit disappointed with their level, and it gives me a lot of confidence regarding the level of the game,” he continued.
Arneodo made the semi-finals of the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2017, alongside fellow Monaco player Hugo Nys. However, he isn’t thinking too far ahead. “We’re going step-by-step and we’ll see where that takes us. If we concentrate on the present, we can do great things,” said Arneodo.
Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life