Former world number one Novak Djokovic's quest for a third Monte Carlo Rolex Masters continues but he has had to work extremely hard to book his berth in the quarterfinals. The second seed almost joined world number one Andy Murray and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka out of the tournament as both of the three-time Grand Slam champions lost to experienced clay courters in Albert Ramos Vinolas and Pablo Cuevas, who both played on clay courts in February whilst the other two contested their first couple of matches of the year on the surface.
Djokovic's quarterfinal opponent will be 10th seed, David Goffin. The Belgian has reached two Grand Slam quarterfinals in his career, falling short to Dominic Thiem at the French Open last year, and to Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open back in January. The Belgian is a very good clay court player as he reached the fourth round at the French Open in 2012 as an unknown campaigner at the time, even taking a set off former world number one Roger Federer. Djokovic will have to raise his level against Goffin once more as the world number 13 is capable of causing the Serb more problems.
Goffin's route to the quarterfinals
The tenth-seeded Belgian began his quest for a first Masters 1000 title against his compatriot and Davis Cup teammate Steve Darcis. Goffin eased past Darcis, 6-2, 6-1, setting up a second round clash with three-time French Open quarterfinalist Nicolas Almagro, who once enjoyed the dizzy heights of being a top ten player. The Spaniard showed his qualities against Goffin racing out to a 4-1 lead but the Belgian rallied back and close out the match in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1 sealing a spot in the third round. The third round pitted Goffin against sixth seed Dominic Thiem in their ninth career meeting. It was a war of attrition with the former top ten player defeating Thiem, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3 advancing to his first Monte Carlo Rolex Masters quarterfinals.
Djokovic's route to the quarterfinals
Djokovic has had an underwhelming 2017 campaign despite winning the title in Doha, the Serb suffered a shocking second round exit at the Australian Open losing to Denis Istomin, and he lost to Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Nevertheless, Djokovic took time off and opted to heal his shoulder, relinquishing his title in Miami in the process. The Serb returned to action last weekend helping Serbia advance to the semifinals of the Davis Cup, defeating Albert Ramos Vinolas in their singles meeting. The 12-time Grand Slam champion received a bye in the opening round but he had a tough second round encounter with Gilles Simon. The second seed endured two hours and 31 minutes with the Frenchman and he had to break back in the final set to defeat Simon, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. Once again, in the third round, the Serb was up against, 13th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who he thrashed in the exact same round three years ago, 6-0, 6-1. However, times have changed and Carreno Busta has improved immensely as the Spaniard is now a top 20 player. Djokovic spent five minutes less on the court, that he spent in his second round match with Simon. Djokovic came through his match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 appearing in his eighth quarterfinal in Monte Carlo, and he is flawless winning seven out of seven that he has contested.
Goffin and Djokovic have met on five occasions, and the former world number one has a flawless 5-0 record against the tenth seed.
Their first encounter was in the first round of the French Open in 2013 which straight sets win for Djokovic, registering a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-5 scoreline. The second seed won their next two encounters in the third round of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati in 2013 and 2015, it was a routine 6-2, 6-0 in 2013 but Goffin won his solitary set against the Serb in their 2015 encounter but fell, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. Djokovic won their two matches in the semifinals of the Miami Open, 7-6 (5), 6-4 and 6-1, 6-2 in their Round Robin encounter at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Who advances to the semifinals?
The second seed has had two confidence-boosting victories in Monte Carlo, which will make him extremely hard to beat in the principality. Despite his rival and nine-time champion Rafael Nadal, who is the reigning champion at the moment being the slight favorite, to claim "La Decima" (the tenth), Djokovic will fancy his chances of beating him. However, the Serb has been vulnerable in his two matches on the European dirt, which is understandable as it is his first event on the European clay court, season but he will need to elevate his level against Goffin, who has troubled him in the past.
The two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist has a scintillating forehand and his movement on clay courts are good. Goffin is a good defender like Djokovic but the two-time Monte Carlo Rolex Masters champion serves, returns and moves better than Goffin on the court. It will be an intriguing quarterfinal match, and the tenth seed is playing too well not to take a set off the world number two.
This will be the third match scheduled on Court Rainier III and the winner of this match will play surprise quarterfinalist Diego Schwartzman or fourth seed Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
Prediction: Djokovic in three sets