Grief-stricken Djokovic wins in Monte Carlo



MONACO — Novak Djokovic dropped to a crouch, his hands on his knees. He then appeared to wipe away tears with his forearm before pointing with both hands to the sky. Alexandr Dolgopolov, his beaten opponent, stood at the net and applauded.

Djokovic had just finished his third-round match at Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday, hours after learning of his grandfather’s death. He skipped the post-match news conference, with the ATP saying he “just felt totally exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Djokovic defeated Dolgopolov 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, winning on his first match point. He reached the quarterfinals along with Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Gilles Simon.

Nadal, the seven-time defending champion, followed Djokovic on court and routed Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1. Nadal conceded only six points on his serve and broke the qualifier five times. Nadal will next face Stanislas Wawrinka.

Third-seeded Andy Murray advanced after Julien Benneteau injured his ankle and quit near the end of a tight first set. He said later he had a fractured right elbow and sprained right ankle.

Djokovic seemed preoccupied as he walked onto center court, his head down. His mind was clearly elsewhere in a first set in which he missed easy volleys, sent drop shots wide and twice lost his serve to Dolgopolov.

Djokovic stared at the ground as he sat waiting for the second set. But he broke Dolgopolov early in the second and wayward shot-making gave the Serb time to get his rhythm back. The players left the court early into the third set because of one of the day’s several downpours.

After they returned, Djokovic broke serve in the ninth game and clinched the victory when Dologopolov sent a return wide. He’ll next play Dutchman Robin Haase, who beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 6-3.

Tsonga, seeded fourth, stopped Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (7), 6-2 after twice coming off for rain delays.