A former world number 1 and a two-time Monte Carlo champion Novak Djokovic has made another big step on his comeback trail, defeating an in-form Croat Borna Coric 7-6 7-5 in grueling 2 hours and 16 minutes to book his place in the third round where he will face Dominic Thiem on Thursday. Novak won just three matches prior to Monte Carlo but he already looks much better here, especially compared to what we saw from him at Indian Wells and Miami.
Two years ago Novak won their only previous match in Madrid but, as was expected, he had to work much harder today to oust the youngster who already won 15 matches so far in 2018. The first set was very close, lasting more than an hour before Novak claimed it 7-2 in the tie break after two mini-breaks.
Carried by this momentum, the Serb broke Borna twice at the start of set number two to gain the lead that he kept until game 10 that turned out into an open war on the court! Borna saved two match points on his serve in game nine and he fends off another seven in that 10th game to somehow stay in touch and break back for a 5-5.
Nonetheless, Novak stayed focused and he broke again in game 11, closing the match on own serve in the following game to reach the last 16 and his 32nd win in Monte Carlo. The Serb played better on his second serve and he scored one extra break that earned the win for him before another tough encounter against the top-ranked Austrian, which would serve as another indicator of his current form.
Competing in only his fourth ATP tournament of the season, Kei Nishikori grabbed his sixth win after a 7-5 6-2 triumph over Daniil Medvedev in an hour and 40 minutes. This was their first meeting and the Japanese had to work hard to earn the win, especially in the opening set where he trailed 3-1 before he broke back and stole the set with another break in game 11.
Nishikori was the dominant figure on the court in set number two and he crossed the finish line with two breaks on his tally, waiting for Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Andreas Seppi in round three where he should be the favorite as well.
Both players struggled to find the first serve (Kei was on 45%) but Nishikori drew the most from it, losing just four points behind his first serve and saving five out of six break points to keep the pressure on the other side of the net.
Kei controlled his shots in a more efficient way, firing 24 winners and unforced errors while Daniil could hit just 10 winners with 34 errors, trailing in the shortest and mid-range points to end his run in the second round.
Medvedev was off to a good start, creating two break points in game two, but Kei stayed focused and saved them after a 25-stroke rally and a nice drops shot winner, avoiding to chase the result right from the start. Nonetheless, Daniil found the way to earn the break in the fourth game and he stayed in front only for a few minutes as Kei broke back to reduce the deficit to 3-2.
The Japanese had to save another break point in game six and he served well after that, dropping just one point in the last three games of the set and waiting for a chance on the return. It appeared in game 11 when he broke Daniil with a deep return, bringing the set home in the following game after 56 minutes.
Medvedev was powerless on the return in Kei's opening three service games of set number two as well (Nishikori has won 27 out of 29 points on serve from the sixth game of the opener) and he had to play against eight break points in his games.
Nishikori broke him in the first game of the set with a backhand winner and he wasted four break chances that could give him an even bigger advantage. He did grab that second break of serve, though, when Daniil hit a double fault in game seven and Kei was now serving for the win.
He saved a break point with a volley winner and wrapped up the win with a forehand down the line winner that propelled him into the last 16. Second round results: