Djokovic into record 77th Masters semi-final at Monte Carlo

MONTE CARLO (MONACO): Novak Djokovic reached a record 77th Masters semi-final on Friday when he defeated Australia's Alex de Minaur in straight sets in Monte Carlo.

The 36-year-old world No. 1 came through a rollercoaster quarter-final to win 7-5, 6-4 and make the last-four in the principality for the first time since 2015 when he went on to claim his second title at the tournament.

Djokovic, the oldest man to make the Monte Carlo semi-finals in the Open Era, will take on either Casper Ruud of Norway or France's Ugo Humbert for a place in today's championship match.

"It was tough for both of us. He is one of the quickest players on tour. He gets a lot of balls back that normally 99 per cent of other players don't," said Djokovic who avenged his loss to De Minaur at the United Cup in January.

"He did not surprise me with several passing shots. Particularly in the second set when I was up a break.

"But he said at the net it was ugly. The second set I think it was. We didn't play at the high level and made a lot of unforced errors, him and I, and a lot of breaks of serve. It is kind of expected on clay but maybe not this many. But a win is a win and I am happy to be through."

Saturday's other semi-final sees Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Jannik Sinner face two-time Monte Carlo winner Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In-form Sinner took his 2024 record to 25 wins and just one loss with a gruelling 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 victory over 2023 runner-up Holger Rune.

Greek 12th seed Tsitsipas breezed past Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 6-2.

Djokovic had appeared on course for a comfortable afternoon under the sweltering Riviera sun against 11th seeded De Minaur.

After pocketing the first set, he was quickly 2-0 ahead in the second.

However, five successive breaks of serve followed as the top seed saw leads of 3-1 and 4-2 retrieved by his opponent who clawed back to 4-4.

Djokovic held for 5-4 and secured his fifth break of the match in the 10th game to claim victory to move two wins away from a 41st career Masters title.-- AFP

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