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Monte Carlo: Evans stuns Djokovic, Nadal-Rublev in quarterfinals

  • Matt Trollope

Dan Evans pulled off the shock of the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday with a stunning straight-sets defeat of world No.1 Novak Djokovic. 

The Brit handed Djokovic his first loss of 2021 with a 6-4 7-5 win to move through to the quarterfinals, where he will face David Goffin.

Goffin scored an upset of his own with a 6-4 7-6(7) defeat of No.5 seed Alexander Zverev, saving a set point in the tiebreak after earlier leading it 6-2.

However, order was restored to the program when Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev won their third-round matches to set up a highly-anticipated quarterfinal.

Nadal needed just 55 minutes to beat an out-of-sorts Grigor Dimitrov 6-1 6-1, while Rublev improved his 2021 win-loss record to 22-4 with a 7-6(2) 5-7 6-3 triumph over ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut – a match featuring 50 winners from the Russian.

Having previously struggled at ATP Masters level, Rublev has now made back-to-back quarterfinals; he went on to reach the Miami Open semis before losing to eventual champion Hubert Hurkacz. 

In two career meetings he is yet to beat Nadal, who was honest in his assessment of his win over Dimitrov.

“Sorry for him. He played a bad match. That is the truth. He made a lot of mistakes,” said Nadal of Dimitrov, who revealed he had been struggling with tooth pain for several days.

“I was there. I was doing the right thing, but it is true that today was more his fault than my good tennis.”

Evans completes almighty upset

World No.33 Evans hardly seemed a threat on clay ahead of his clash with Djokovic; he had only ever played 19 tour-level matches on the surface throughout his career (losing 13 of them) and had never before appeared in a tour-level clay-court quarterfinal.

He entered the Monte Carlo Masters on a 10-match clay-court losing streak dating back to 2017. 

Yet using his slice to perfection and keeping Djokovic off balance, he raced to a 3-0 lead and held points for 4-0 before the reigning Australian Open champion worked his way back into the contest.

Djokovic broke back twice to level scores at 4-4 but Evans was not disheartened, breaking serve in the ninth game and serving out the set in the next.

Djokovic moved 3-0 ahead in the second set but again the Brit proved tenacious, saving a set point in the 10th game and eventually notching his first career victory over a top-five player.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I couldn’t quite believe the last ball went over the net,” Evans said.

“The biggest thing is, you have got to believe you can win. 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. 

“It will be one to savour for maybe after the tournament, to tell the kids and grandkids that you beat the World No.1. It is a nice one.”

DRAW: Monte Carlo men's singles

This was Djokovic’s first defeat in 2021 after the Serb had improved his win-loss record to 10-0 with victory over Jannik Sinner on Wednesday.

“He's very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game,” Djokovic said.

“To be honest, this has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in the last years.

“I don't want to take anything away from his win, but from my side, I just felt awful on the court overall. Just nothing worked. It's one of those days.”

Ruud keeps rolling

In other results, Casper Ruud ended Pablo Carreno-Busta’s six-match winning streak with a 7-6(4) 5-7 7-5 victory.

Trailing 5-2 in the final set, Ruud saved two match points when the Spaniard was serving for the match to set up a quarterfinal clash with defending champion Fabio Fognini, who dismissed Filip Krajinovic in straight sets. 

No.4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Cristian Garin 6-3 6-4 and will meet Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – a straight-sets winner over Lucas Pouille – for a place in the semifinals.