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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Monte Carlo Masters: Dominic Thiem ready to face Rafael Nadal in blockbuster showdown after beating Novak Djokovic

There were also third round wins for Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and Alexander Zverev

Austria's Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-7, 6-2, 6-3. Eric Gaillard / Reuters
Austria's Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-7, 6-2, 6-3. Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Novak Djokovic is still searching for his first win over a top-10 player this season after losing a third round battle at the Monte Carlo Masters against Dominic Thiem on Thursday.

Djokovic, 30, fought back from a break down in the opening set to win the tie-break but as Thiem ramped up the intensity, the Serbian faded before losing 6-7, 6-2, 6-3.

Victory for the world No 7 from Austria set up a blockbuster showdown with defending and 10-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal, who defeated Russia's Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-2.

Djokovic, the former world No 1 from Serbia, has played a limited schedule this season as he continues his recovery from the elbow injury that cut short his 2017 campaign.

Prior to his efforts in Monte Carlo, Djokovic lost successive matches in the Masters events at Indian Wells and Miami. His only other appearance this season was a run to the fourth round of the Australian Open.

"It's [a] way better feeling if you go against him and know that you've beaten him already on this surface," Thiem said about his upcoming match against Nadal.

"But it's the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him. For sure tomorrow, if I play him, I have to rise my level again. I think I'm able to do that."

World No 1 Nadal needs to win an 11th Monte Carlo title to stay clear of Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings, and he made short work of Khachanov in Monaco.

Khachanov held his own at times in the opening set, but Nadal moved through the gears and claimed his second comfortable victory of the week after his opening win over Aljaz Bedene.

Thiem should provide a sterner test in the last eight. Nadal has lost twice to him on clay, but produced a dominant display in the French Open semi-finals last year en route to his 10th Roland Garros title.

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Comment: Del Potro needs to be regarded as an elite star again

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Spaniard Rafael Nadal was just too good for Russia's Karen Khachanov. Yann Coatsaliou / AFP
Spaniard Rafael Nadal was just too good for Russia's Karen Khachanov. Yann Coatsaliou / AFP

Kicking off the action in Monaco on Thursday, Germany’s world No 4 Alexander Zverev defeated compatriot Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Zverev will have the chance to avenge his brother’s defeat after Mischa lost to Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-2, 7-5.

Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin will face each other for the first time since the Rotterdam Open semi-finals after both players safely navigated their way through the last eight. It was in the match against Dimitrov in Rotterdam that Goffin sustained the freak eye injury that ruled the Belgian out of action for a month.

Goffin put in his most impressive performance since returning, comfortably beating Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-5. Dimitrov was pushed harder by German Philipp Kohlschreiber but the Bulgarian came through 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, another player making his way back from a long-term injury lay-off, defeated Italian Andrea Seppi 6-0, 2-6, 6-3. and will face Croatian world No 3 Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals.

Cilic, who defeated Nishikori in the 2014 US Open final, was handed a walkover after Canada’s Milos Raonic withdrew from the tournament citing a knee injury.