Tennis: Grieving Djokovic into quarters

Novak Djokovic. Photo / AP
Novak Djokovic. Photo / AP

Novak Djokovic dropped to a crouch, his hands on his knees. He then appeared to wipe away tears with his forearm before pointing with both hands to the sky. Alexandr Dolgopolov, his beaten opponent, stood at the net and applauded.

Djokovic had just finished his third-round match at the Monte Carlo Masters yesterday, hours after learning of his grandfather's death. He skipped the post-match news conference, with the ATP saying he "just felt totally exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally".

Djokovic defeated Dolgopolov 2-6, 6-1, 6-4. He reached the quarter-finals along with Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Gilles Simon.

Nadal, the seven-time defending champion, followed Djokovic on court and routed Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1. Nadal conceded only six points on his serve and broke the Kazakh qualifier five times. He will next face Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka, who defeated eighth-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-3, 6-3.

Third-seeded Murray advanced after Julien Benneteau of France injured his ankle and quit near the end of a tight first set with the score 6-5. He said later he had a broken right elbow and sprained right ankle.

The top-ranked Djokovic seemed preoccupied as he walked on to centre court, his head down. His mind was clearly elsewhere in a first set in which he missed easy volleys, sent drop shots wide and twice lost his serve to Dolgopolov.

Djokovic stared at the ground as he sat waiting for the second set. But he broke Dolgopolov early in the second and wayward shot-making gave the Serb time to get his rhythm back. The players left the court early into the third set because of one of the day's several downpours. After they returned, Djokovic broke the Ukrainian in the ninth game and clinched the victory when Dolgopolov sent a return wide. He'll next play Dutchman Robin Haase, who beat Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 6-3.

Tsonga, seeded fourth, stopped Fernando Verdasco of Spain 7-6 (7), 6-2 after twice coming off for rain delays. He will play Simon in an all-French quarterfinal. Simon beat seventh-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. Benneteau, a former French Open quarter-finalist, caused Murray problems. But while scampering to retrieve a shot from the baseline, he slipped and rolled his ankle. He also hurt his wrist as he tried to break his fall. "When he went down, he was making quite a lot of noise," Murray said.

After extensive treatment, Benneteau resumed play, but only briefly. Murray next plays sixth-seeded Berdych. The Czech recovered from a shaky first set to beat Kei Nishikori of Japan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

- AP

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