Vesely Shocks Djokovic In Monte-Carlo
Czech earns first win against Top 10 player
It is just Djokovic’s second loss of the season and his earliest defeat on the ATP World Tour in three years, since losing in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open against Grigor Dimitrov. The loss also marks Djokovic's first defeat to a player outside the Top 50 since his 2010 loss against then World No. 74 Xavier Malisse (Queen's).
Barring a quarter-finals exit in Dubai, where he was forced to retire against Feliciano Lopez due to an eye problem, Djokovic had won nine of his past 10 tournaments, dating back to a runner-up finish in Cincinnati (l. to Federer) in August 2015.
"Obviously it's not easy to lose the match in terms of accepting it right after exiting the court. But I have to congratulate my opponent," Djokovic said. "I think he played very solid. He was serving very big. He was playing tactically good and aggressive."
Vesely held his nerve for a stunning victory in two hours and six minutes. The Czech was denied a match point as Djokovic held serve in the ninth game to force Vesely to serve it out. And the 22 year old did not falter. He served out the victory to 15 in the following game to rapturous applause on Court Ranier III.
"I'm just very, very happy," Vesely said. "When I went on court, I had completely different thinking, like, 'I hope to win a game,' or 'I really hope to do well.' But I really had no idea that I really would be able to beat Novak today."
Djokovic had seemed poised to stage a fightback after reeling off four straight games from 2-2 in the second set to level the match. But Vesely regrouped in the decider to claim a memorable victory. "I'm just... happy the way I fought today and the way I finished the match," Vesely said.
The Czech was the inaugural Star of Tomorrow presented by Emirates in 2013 and went on to reach two ATP World Tour finals in 2015, winning his first title as a qualifier in Auckland (d. Mannarino) and finishing runner-up in Bucharest (l. to Garcia-Lopez).
The left-hander came into Monte-Carlo on the back of a semi-finals showing in Marrakech, where he fell to Borna Coric. It marked a welcome return to form for Vesely, who had won just one match in seven tournaments at the start of the season.
"I hope (today) will give me a lot of confidence, a lot of self-belief. I think I've struggled pretty much the last few months where I really didn't play good tennis," he said.
The 13th-seeded Frenchman advanced in 73 minutes on Court Ranier III, breaking his opponent four times in the pair’s second meeting (Monfils leads 2-0). It marked Monfils’ 17th win of the season.
The 29 year old is coming off back-to-back quarter-finals showings in Indian Wells (l. to Raonic) and Miami (l. to Nishikori) and also reached the final eight at the Australian Open (l. to Raonic) as well as finishing runner-up in Rotterdam (l. to Klizan).
Monfils was a semi-finalist at the Monte-Carlo Country Club last year (l. to Berdych).
David Goffin battled past Fernando Verdasco in two hours and 30 minutes, prevailing 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-6(1). The third set featured six service breaks and saw Goffin save match point as Verdasco served for the contest at 5-4, before eventually claiming victory in the tie-break.
"It was a difficult match," said Goffin. "He was playing well. He was into his match. He was solid. It was a bit complicated for me. Several times I went out of the match. The conditions were tough for me. But I was lucky that I won it. I hope I'll do better tomorrow. I'm happy that I won.
"I was able to keep fighting until the end of the third set," continued Goffin, who just reached successive Masters 1000 semi-finals in Indian Wells and Miami. "Even if I was down a break several times, I was able to fight back. It paid off."