Novak Djokovic continued his title defense at the 2014 Monte-Carlo Masters on Friday, surviving an early scare to eliminate Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and advance to the semifinals.
Novak Djokovic gets through with a 46 63 61 over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. He'll play Roger Federer in the semifinals tomorrow. #atp— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) April 18, 2014
Nole’s dominance over his Spanish opponent wasn’t quite apparent at the start in this quarterfinal battle, as he struggled to keep the ball in play and committed a number of errors. However, the favorite displayed his fitness and prevailed for a fifth victory in as many career matchups with Garcia-Lopez.
Tennis Tweets pointed out that Djokovic had won 19-straight sets against Spanish opponents coming into this match, a streak that was quickly snapped by Garcia-Lopez in a brutal opening set:
if you are spanish you don't want to play djokovic: he's won 19 straight sets over guys from spain— Tennis Tweets (@tennistweetscom) April 18, 2014
Garcia-Lopez did his best to keep Djokovic from establishing a rhythm early on and did not allow himself to get bulled over in a hurry, unlike the previous two opponents that faced the 26-year-old Serbian.
Djokovic had dispatched Pablo Carreno Vista on Thursday in just 47 minutes for his 12th win in a row, but needed more than two hours to best Garcia-Lopez. He spoke about his plans for the semifinals with the ATPWorldTour.com staff after beating Carreno Vista:
Another clay court specialist, another match which I approach with an aggressive mindset in terms of game plan. I have already great variety in the game, which is one of the key components for an optimal success on this surface. You need to be able to play equally well defensively and offensively. That's something I was doing quite well in the first two rounds.
Djokovic’s preparation wasn’t exactly where it needed to be and it seemed he was looking past his opponent at the start of the match. Brodie of MindTheRacket pointed out that unforced errors were a major problem for Djokovic early on:
Garlo finds his down the line backhand once again and uses it to finish off the set. 6-4. Djokovic with a ton of unforced errors.— Brodie (@MindTheRacket) April 18, 2014
However, the 30-year-old Garcia-Lopez could not keep his improbable control of the match going for long and eventually started his downward spiral in the middle of the second set.
We Are Tennis tweeted out the score after Djokovic pushed through to force a deciding third set:
Brodie pointed out that the younger champion’s physical capabilities and stamina made the difference in this one:
This match is a great testament to Djokovic's fitness. Moving as well as he has all match, Garlo's backhand is being overloaded. In control.— Brodie (@MindTheRacket) April 18, 2014
Djokovic was not the only one struggling in Monte-Carlo on Friday. Rafael Nadal lost a rare clay court battle, in straight sets no less, in a quarterfinal showdown with David Ferrer. Roger Federer—the Djoker’s next round opponent—needed a similar comeback to Nole in order to escape Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier in the day.
Let’s take a look at what is next for Nole as he looks to repeat as a champion in this tournament.
Djokovic is moving on to face Federer in the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Masters and it should make for an extremely thrilling matchup.
It will be the 34th meeting between these two tennis titans and the Djoker will be getting a chance to even a series he currently trails by one win (17-16). The pair last squared off at Indian Wells back in March, with Djokovic earning a tough, three-set victory in the finals.
Federer took the meeting prior to that, ousting his Serbian rival in another three-set showdown during the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. This upcoming rubber match should be nothing short of excellent and well worth watching for both casual fans and tennis aficionados alike.
Djokovic has won the last two meetings on a clay surface against Fed, but the two have not played one another on it since the 2012 French Open.
Who will win the semifinal matchup?
It’s going to be tough to bet against Nole, even if he isn't playing great tennis at this juncture. He should be hungry to claim his first clay court title of the 2014 season and showed that he is still in peak shape on Friday.
Factor in that the aging Swiss star is coming off a rough, three-set war against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and you have the recipe for the more spry Djokovic to claim a narrow victory.
Semifinal Prediction: Djokovic over Federer in three sets.