MONTE CARLO, April 16 — Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday following an “awful performance” in a 6-4, 7-5 defeat by Dan Evans, while 11-time champion Rafael Nadal powered into the quarter-finals.
World number one Djokovic was broken five times by the Briton in their last-16 clash and suffered his first loss of the year, having won the Australian Open for the ninth time in February.
The 33rd-ranked Evans, who dumped out this month’s Miami Open winner Hubert Hurkacz in the previous round, will play 11th seed David Goffin for a place in the semi-finals.
Goffin beat US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) earlier in the day.
An out-of-sorts Djokovic produced an uncharacteristic 45 unforced errors against Evans, who hadn’t won a tour-level match on clay since April 2017 before this week.
“To be honest this has been one of the worst matches from my side I can recall in the last few years,” said Djokovic, the Monte Carlo champion in 2013 and 2015.
“I felt awful on the court overall. Nothing worked. Just one of those days.
“It was just an awful performance. I can’t take any positives away from this match. It definitely leaves a bitter feeling exiting the court this way.”
Djokovic fell 3-0 behind after dropping his opening two service games but recovered to 4-all before Evans broke again, wrapping up the set in the following game.
The Serb looked to be on the road to recovery as he surged 3-0 ahead in the second, but Evans — facing Djokovic for the first time — got back on serve and defended a break point to hold when trailing 4-3.
‘One for the grandkids’
While the Evans backhand slice proved particularly effective, it was a double fault from Djokovic that handed his opponent the key break in the 11th game and condemned the top seed to defeat.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Evans said in his post-match interview. “I couldn’t quite believe the last ball went over the net. It nearly didn’t.”
“You can never be confident coming into such a big match like that against Novak,” he added.
“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.
“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.”
Nadal required just 55 minutes to demolish Bulgarian 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-1, 6-1.
“(I am) sorry for him. He played a bad match. That is the truth,” Nadal said of his opponent who was struggling with severe toothache.
“He made a lot of mistakes. I was there. I was doing the right thing, but it is true that today was more his fault than my good tennis.”
The third-ranked Spaniard is the highest seed left in the draw following Djokovic’s loss and the withdrawal of Daniil Medvedev after he tested positive for Covid-19.
Nadal will meet Russian sixth seed Andrey Rublev, who defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 6-3, for a semi-final spot.
Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Chile’s Cristian Garin in straight sets.
The Greek will next take on Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who put out French wildcard Lucas Pouille.
Fabio Fognini, the 2019 champion, eased past Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) and will next face Norway’s world number 27 Casper Ruud who defeated last weekend’s Marbella champion and 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 7-5.
Ruud recovered from 2-5 down in the decider to reach the last eight, emulating his father Christian who was also a quarter-finalist in 1997. — AFP