Djokovic’s latest loss adds to wild week of upsets at Monte-Carlo

AP Photo/Claude Paris
AP Photo/Claude Paris

A dizzying Thursday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters saw top seed Andy Murray and 2014 champ Stan Wawrinka ousted, but 2-time winner Novak Djokovic managed to survive his second grueling match of the week over an opponent who blinked at the end.

Djokovic wasn’t as fortunate on Friday though, losing in the quarterfinals to David Goffin, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, which notched a first-ever win over any of the “Big Four” for Goffin, a talented but undersized ball-striker whose lack of height and habit of nerves had previously kept him from a career-defining win like this.

Overall, it was a somewhat productive week for Djokovic, who gained some rhythm and match play while appearing alright in the wake of his elbow injury that forced him out of Miami (better than Murray and his elbow, at least). However, given that he lost to another player who had never previously beaten him, it’s worth wondering if his health is a bad sign either way. If Djokovic is mostly healthy, then it remains unclear how good he is at this very moment, considering he’s been pushed hard and even beaten by players in the 20-50 range that rarely troubled him over the last couple years.

In other words, is it more or less encouraging to lose when playing well enough to win? He still shows top five form (including a stretch of absolute dominance in the second set against Goffin), but the results don’t show it:

Most players would dream of a win percentage over 75%, but that’s tough to convert into five victories a week for a top title, equating more to a season like say, Rafael Nadal’s 2015, when Nadal consistently made quarterfinals but struggled to put together a complete week.

This week on clay – Djokovic’s first event on the surface since winning the 2016 French Open – further highlighted the main reason for that drop: his service games. Between a less potent serve and a leakier ground game, a slight dip in hold percentage has equated to losing leads, as he did against Goffin, when a 4-2 advantage turned into a 7-5 loss.

As for Goffin, he awaits the winner of 9-time Monte-Carlo champion Nadal and Diego Schwartzman, while the other semifinal will pit rising Lucas Pouille and veteran Albert Ramos-Vinolas against each other. Only Nadal, with 43, has ever reached a Masters final among the remaining players.

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