World No. 1 Andy Murray crashed out of the 2017 Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday as Albert Ramos-Vinolas took him down 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the last 16 in just over two-and-a-half hours.
Playing in his first tournament back after a month-long layoff through injury, Murray broke four times in the opening set on the Monaco clay to earn the lead. However, the Scot was outclassed in the second set, as Ramos-Vinolas produced some stunning play to level. A topsy-turvy decider resulted in the Spaniard claiming the biggest victory of his career.
On a day of upsets, third seed and 2015 French Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka also lost in the last 16 as he was beaten by Pablo Cuevas.
While Murray and Wawrinka both suffered eliminations, Novak Djokovic was able to battle through in his match, eventually edging out Pablo Carreno Busta in three sets in just under two-and-a-half hours. There were no such issues for Rafael Nadal, as he cruised past Alexander Zverev, dropping just two games.
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|2017 Monte Carlo Masters: Thursday Round-of-16 Results|
|(5) Marin Cilic bt. (9) Tomas Berdych||6-2, 7-6 (0)|
|(15) Albert Ramos-Vinolas bt. (1) Andy Murray||2-6, 6-2, 7-5|
|(11) Lucas Pouille bt. Adrian Mannarino||3-0, ret.|
|(16) Pablo Cuevas bt. (3) Stanislas Wawrinka||6-4, 6-4|
|(10) David Goffin bt. (6) Dominic Thiem||7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3|
|(4) Rafael Nadal bt. (14) Alexander Zverev||6-1, 6-1|
|(2) Novak Djokovic bt. (13) Pablo Carreno Busta||6-2, 4-6, 6-4|
|Diego Schwartzman bt. Jan-Lennard Struff||6-3, 6-0|
|ATP World Tour|
It was clear from the off that Murray would not be allowed to ease through to the last eight.
Rallies were well-contested from the start, and after holding from deuce in the opening game of the match, Murray went 2-0 up when he took his fifth break point with a backhand winner.
Ramos-Vinolas broke straight back in the next game and did the same again to make it 3-2 after Murray had regained his advantage.
It was high-quality tennis from the pair, but the top seed finally got on top as he broke to love in the sixth game of the set before finally consolidating for 5-2.
A luscious backhand cross-court winner from Murray sealed him another break and the first set, per The Times' Stuart Fraser:
Stuart Fraser @stu_fraser
Gruelling stuff as the clock strikes midday in Monte Carlo... Andy Murray in good shape as he takes the first set 6-2 in 48 minutes.2017-4-20 10:05:42
Ramos-Vinolas hit back in impressive fashion, finally holding for the first time for 1-1 in the second set and then again after a break to establish a 3-1 lead.
He was hitting the lines with remarkable regularity and holding his serve as he had not been able to in the opener.
Ramos-Vinolas broke Murray again for 5-2, with the three-time Grand Slam winner looking a little lacklustre, and served out to level the contest, per Tennis TV:
Tennis TV @TennisTV
Ramos-Vinolas has never beaten a world No.1. That about to change? He's forced a third. Watch ➡️ https://t.co/kRsZ9uv0ca #MCROLEXMASTERS https://t.co/YTHoTOyEOO2017-4-20 10:44:07
Murray then kicked up a gear and wrestled back the momentum as he raced into a 4-0 lead in the decider, allowing Ramos-Vinolas only three points in the process.
The Spaniard would not be cowed, though. A finely taken smash earned him a first break back, and he then fashioned the second and consolidated to draw level at 4-4.
Another break for 6-5 gave him the chance to serve for a place in the last eight, and Ramos-Vinolas took his second match point as Murray netted an attempted drop shot.
Wawrinka’s loss was less dramatic although still surprising, as he was a long way short of his best against Cuevas in a straight-sets defeat.
As noted by George Bellshaw of Metro, the wins for Ramos-Vinolas and Cuevas saw the draw completely open up in Monte Carlo:
It came close to opening up even more later in the day, as Djokovic was given a big scare by Busta in their match.
After winning the first set 6-2, the second seed looked set for a routine day on court. But the Spaniard roared back into the match to take the second and played some sparkling tennis for much of the decider.
Per Tennis TV, the underdog didn’t capitalise on his chances when they did emerge:
Tennis TV @TennisTV
When you miss a break point at 4-4 with your opponent stranded... #MCROLEXMASTERS https://t.co/GxWPM7hDSP2017-4-20 17:53:59
By contrast, once Djokovic clawed his way to a 5-4 advantage in the final stanza, there was a sense of what was to come. At the clutch moment, he broke Busta to make his way into the quarter-finals.
Nadal, the nine-time French Open champion, looks to be getting things together on his preferred surface too.
The Spaniard faced a tricky tie with 14th seed Zverev, who was celebrating his 20th birthday on Thursday. But Nadal, who had to battle hard to get past Kyle Edmund in the previous round, was a class apart in their meeting, as he turned over the youngster 6-1, 6-1 in just 74 minutes.
Per Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, the display was a reminder that Nadal is still the man on clay:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
The present beats the future 6-1, 6-1. Challenging Nadal on a quick Aussie hardcourt one thing. Doing so on Monte Carlo clay quite another2017-4-20 15:05:16
In another fascinating match, Dominic Thiem, seeded sixth, was eventually beaten by Belgium’s David Goffin. After being pulled back, the 10th seed rallied in a decider, eventually clinching a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3 win.