After the sensational upset of the world number one Novak Djokovic on Wednesday, normal service was restored as Andy Murray, Roger Federer, the 2014 champion Stanislas Wawrinka and the eight time champion Rafael Nadal (2005-12) advanced to the last eight stage at the picturesque Monte Carlo country club.
Murray looked to be on the way to a third consecutive third round loss in a Masters tournament, as he fell behind a set and two service breaks against the Frenchman Benoit Paire. The 22nd ranked Paire was also serving for the match in the deciding set but Murray won the last three games to seal the two hour thirty three minute encounter 2-6,7-5,7-5.
That set up a rematch of the epic five set semifinal clash at the Australian Open against Canada’s Milos Raonic. The 12th ranked Raonic had his hands full against the fast improving Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia Herzegovina. He fired 12 aces en route to a 6-4,3-6,7-6(5) win.
In the eagerly awaited clash of the day, Rafael Nadal saved 15 of the 17 break points against the second most successful player of the year; the Austrian Dominic Thiem. Nadal won 7-5, 6-3 and served 73% first serves as he converted four out of the eight break point chances. He next plays Stanislas Wawrinka who demolished the Frenchman Giles Simon 6-1, 6-2 in just 82 minutes. Simon had eight break point chances of which he could convert only one.
Another Frenchman Gael Monfils, ranked 16th in the world was too strong for Jiri Vesley, the conqueror of Novak Djokovic who looked emotionally drained as he fell 1-6, 2-6. Roger Federer, playing in his first tournament since the Australian Open in January, extended his perfect record to 5-0 against the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. Federer saved all three break points he faced in the second set and never dropped serve as he won 6-2,6-4 in an hour and nine minutes.
Marcel Granollers who got into the main draw as a lucky looser continued his impressive run with a 7-6(1), 6-4 win over David Goffin of Belgium who had reached the semifinal at both Indian Wells and Miami last month. He will next play Monfils, while Federer takes on another Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga in what will be a repeat of their 2014 quarter final match up. Federer had wasted more than 15 break points in that match which turned in his favour after the second set which he claimed in a tie-break.
In a match between two French men, Tsonga defeated fellow countryman and a wild card entrant Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4 in the final match of the day on Thursday. In their first meeting, Tsonga was strong on his serve and converted 2 out of his 9 break point opportunities to set up a 17th meeting with Federer.
The line up for the quarter final with my picks mentioned first is as under:-
Raonic (12) v. Andy Murray (2)
Stanislas Wawrinka (4) v Rafael Nadal (3)
Roger Federer (3) v. Jo Wilfred Tsonga (8)
Gael Monfils (13) v. Marcel Granollers (-)
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]