Business as usual continued in Monte-Carlo despite a couple of upsets with 10 of the 12 seeds going through, leaving them with a 83% success rate. It’s very surprising that the seeds are holding their own considering the uncertainty we’ve had in the game in recent months.
Stan Wawrinka avoided an upset as he overcame Djokovic’s slayer from last year Jiri Vesely 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the opening match on Court Rainier III. Wawrinka was playing well and looked good physically despite showing some rust with his first match on clay. Vesely is a dangerous clay courter and I don’t think Wawrinka would have been pleased when he saw the draw so he handled the match very well considering. Wawrinka was the stronger of the two from the beginning of the match as he broke for a 3-0 lead and despite being broken back later in the set he recovered and managed to close out the opener. Wawrinka wasn’t able to take hold out his opportunities in the second set and eventually Vesely managed to get a break to lead 4-3. Vesely held his own for the rest of the set and he forced a decider in his bid to cause an upset in Monaco for the second year in a row. It was all Wawrinka for the final set as he took charge from the start and ended the set without facing a break point. Despite Vesely not playing his best, especially on serve, in the final set I still think Wawrinka will be happy with this win and how he felt physically.
Our feature match saw the biggest upset of the day with Jan-Lennard Struff send Grigor Dimitrov home after a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win on Court Rainier III. Struff always plays well in Monte-Carlo and this is the third time he has reached the round of 16. Dimitrov wasn’t able to put his backhand into effect on the slower clay and Struff found that weakness early and targeted it. The first set was very tight with both men serving really solidly but Dimitrov got a break to lead 4-5 before serving it out. Dimitrov’s level didn’t change for the second set but Struff improved heaps so there was no chance for the Bulgarian to challenge now that Struff was playing better. Struff got a break to lead 3-1 and the rest of the set was on serve until the German served out the set. The German didn’t slow down for the final set and from 2-2, Struff went out on a run and earned two straight breaks on the way to the match. Stuff really deserved this win as he was the better player and I think both men on court knew that. I have no idea what’s going on with Dimitrov after such a great start to the season which included a Brisbane title, an Australian Open semifinal and a Sofia title he has taken four straight losses.
Lucas Pouille also went through today with a 6-2, 6-4 dominant win over the very talented clay-court player that is Paolo Lorenzi on Court Des Princes. Pouille didn’t have a very good start to the season but now he’s on the clay he looks like he starting to get some confidence back and that’s coming through on the match court. Lorenzi looked out of sorts today but this win was mostly on the racquet of Lucas Pouille. It was all Pouille in the first set despite not serving as well as he has in the past couple of days. He only lost 4 points on serve in the first set and saved the two break points that those points brought for Lorenzi. Pouille got broken twice in the first set but Lorenzi managed to make it a bit more competitive for the second set. Pouille raced out to an early lead at 4-1 but then Lorenzi managed to get one of the breaks back to get it on serve at 5-4. Pouille got one more break to take the match in straight sets get into his first third round of the season.
Dominic Thiem set up a young-gun clash with David Goffin in the third round after he got a 6-3, 6-2 win over the veteran Robin Haase. Thiem was very aggressive all throughout the match and hit some cracker backhands down the line. Haase was trying to make it tricky for Thiem by giving him some angles but the top Austrian was taking it all in his stride and felt with it accordingly. They exchanged breaks to start the match while displaying some nerves and some rust but soon after being level at 2-2, Thiem started to make his move. He broke to lead 4-2 and Haase got another servicer hold on the way to Thiem taking the set with a stunning backhand down-the-line. The second set was a stroll in the park for Dominic Thiem as he raced out to 5-1 lead with a double break. Haase managed to hold serve while under pressure one last time but after that Thiem finally finished off a dominant performance with some great aggression. Despite all the controversy of Thiem’s scheduling everyone can see the talent and he displayed that today.
I won’t be doing a match preview today but I will try to do one tomorrow night as well as rounding up some off-court news from the week (including Serena Williams’s pregnancy announcement). My feature match for tomorrow will be between Novak Djokovic and Pablo Carreno Busta, which I see Djokovic taking in three sets.