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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Friday, April 12, 2024


Novak Djokovic broke serve five times in a 7-5, 6-4 win over Alex de Minaur to reach his first Monte-Carlo semifinal since 2015.

Photo credit: Mateo Villalba/Getty

Leaning on his Head racquet as if it were a cane, a winded Novak Djokovic gulped in a deep breath behind the baseline.

Fighting fatigue and a spunky Alex de Minaur, Djokovic hit his way into history with a hard-fought 7-5, 6-4 Monte-Carlo victory.

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It was slippery and sloppy at times—the pair combined for eight service breaks and more errors than winners in an “ugly match” as de Minaur described it—but in the end Djokovic did what he needed to reach his first Monte-Carlo semifinal since 2015.

The 36-year-old Serbian superstar is the oldest man in Open Era history to reach the final four in Monte-Carlo.

"I'm very happy to be back in the semis; it's been a while," Djokovic said. "And I love this tournament. I know this club very well. I've been training for so many years here.

"The last seven or eight years has been quite tough, I must say, for me to win two or three matches consecutively. But here we are, another semis, and I'm looking forward to it." 

The owner of a record 40 Masters championships, Djokovic advanced to his 77th career Masters 1000 semifinal breaking the record he previously shared with rival Rafael Nadal.

Two-time champion Djokovic will play either eighth-seeded Casper Ruud or 14th-seeded Frenchman Ugo Humbert for a spot in Sunday’s final.

Facing de Minaur for the first time since the Aussie prevailed 6-4, 6-4 in their United Cup clash last January, Djokovic showed a willingness to play longer, grinding points today but looked weary as the match progressed.

In his first tournament since he was upset by 123rd-ranked Italian Luca Nardi in Indian Wells last month, Djokovic exploited an unsightly 42 percent serving percentage from the Aussie as he broke serve five times.

Djokovic pulled the string on a clever backhand drop shot winner holding for 4-3.

Both men were moving with vigor as running rallies escalated. Leaning low, de Minaur slid a running backhand down the line that landed right on the sideline for 4-all.

Struggling to land first serves, de Minaur netted a drop shot to face a set point in the 10th game. The Aussie No. 1 showed guts hitting a flat forehand winner down the line. That strike helped him hold and level after 10 games.

The top seed saved a break point in the 11th game and then toppled to the clay knocking off a drive a few feet from net. Streaks of red dirt colored the back of Djokovic’s crimson shirt as he held firm for 6-5.

An inability to consistently land first serves cost de Minaur in the 12th game. His third double fault gave Djokovic two more set points.

A pair of routine rally errors from Djokovic enabled de Minaur to erase both set points, but he missed a forehand long to face a fourth set point.

The world No. 11 dumped a drop shot into the net as Djokovic snatched a one-set lead with a clenched fist after 66 minutes.

Though de Minaur denied five of six break points, his abysmal 37 percent first-serve percentage cost him. Djokovic saved all three break points he faced and won 12 of 15 second-serve points in the set.

Two games into the second set, Djokovic flicked a backhand forcing an attacking de Minaur to play one more shot. Nearly on tope of net, The Aussie butchered a high forehand volley into net to cede the break and a 2-0 second-set lead to Djokovic.

The sparked a streak of four straight breaks. After de Minaur won a 30-shot rally breaking back for 2-3, Djokovic leaned back in his court-side seat taking in deep gulps of breath.

Though Djokovic looked more depleted, de Minaur’s serving woes struck again. De Minaur’s fourth double fault followed by an errant forehand resulted in the break as Djokovic moved ahead 4-2.

Still, Djokovic couldn’t summon the shots to confirm the break. De Minaur ran everything down scoring the sixth consecutive break of the set in the seventh game.

Fittingly, Djokovic completed a bizarre and break-filled festival by breaking de Minaur for the fifth time to close in two hours, four minutes.


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