Monte Carlo Masters: Wawrinka sent crashing out as Djokovic survived a scare
The day of dramatic tennis in Monte Carlo reached new heights with the second round match-up between the Swiss player Stan Wawrinka and the Italian 11th seed Marco Cecchinato, as the result was completely unexpected if one only watched the first 35 minutes of the match.
Wawrinka, who was riding high on confidence after his first round victory over Lucas Pouille, had started off this match on a tremendous note. He broke the Italian in his first service game with some powerful hitting.
Before long, Wawrinka was up 3-0 and continued playing a high level of tennis for the next few minutes, and he didn't allow Cecchinato to get a foothold on the match, as the Swiss player grabbed the first set 6-0 in about 20 minutes.
With the way the first set progressed, Stan looked sure to be the winner, especially as he broke Cecchinato in the second set, and held a comfortable lead.
But, the Italian was not done yet and he slowly started to show his dexterity when he moved towards the net as the crowd started getting involved in the second set. At 5-4, serving for the match, Wawarinka lost the game by a whisker to Cecchinato and served two double-faults in his next service game to eventually lose it, 5-7 to the Italian.
Marco Cecchinato then broke Wawrinka twice in the third set with the aid of two more double faults from the Swiss player in the ninth game of the set, which earned Cecchinato a landmark victory in his career.
One of the best turnarounds in recent time by Cecchinato has now dented the hopes of Stan Wawrinka in his pursuit of a decent run in ATP Masters 1000 tournaments.
Earlier, there was another dramatic encounter between the world number one Novak Djokovic and the German Philipp Kohlschreiber. The match literally had everything, right from double faults, to Djokovic thrashing his racquet in frustration. It was one of the most error-ridden matches that has happened this year.
Neither player could find any rhythm throughout the match as errors and double faults kept on popping up from them in a consistent manner. So, it came down to who made the least errors on the day, and Novak deserved to win the match as he made the least number of errors.
Right from the word go, Djokovic realised that he was in for a tough match, as there were some difficult rallies between the two, with the majority of them going the German's way. Also, the backhand of Djokovic was not close to its best and this added to the frustration of the world number one.
A double fault and an unforced error on the backhand side from Djokovic gave Kohlschreiber a break point in the fifth game of the first set. Djokovic hit a drop shot that was well within the reach of Kohlschreiber, but he missed a simple forehand from the top of the net as he lost the break point offered by Djokovic.
This was a lost opportunity for Kohlschreiber and it seemed to haunt him, as he looked a bit off in the remaining games, which gave Novak an opportunity to get a break point. He converted the break point and he won the first set, 6-3.
In the second set, there were many exchange of breaks between the two players, and it started with Kohlschreiber breaking Djokovic at 2-1, and taking the lead, 3-1.
Kohlschreiber struggled to win the first point on his serve to gain any initial momentum as Djokovic won the first point on the German's serve almost every time in the second set. This meant that the German was broken multiple times in the second set.
During one of these service games, Djokovic vented out his frustration on his racquet as he repeatedly hit it on the ground before it was damaged and got a code violation for it.
After another exchange of breaks, it was Kohlschreiber who drew the final blood on Djokovic's serve and took the set 6-4.
The first two sets were clay court tennis at the very best as there were some varied rallies with top-spin forehands and down-the line backhands exchanged by both players. Also, the styles of both players were very similar and this raised the level of the match a notch higher.
In the final set, Kohlschreiber lost the first game, and Djokovic held his own serve to gain a 2-0 lead. Kohlschreiber threw everything in his disposal at Djokovic but failed to convert any of the break points offered to him.
There were 16 break point opportunities for Kohlschreiber, but he could only win four break points. This was an indication of how great the defence of Djokovic was and why it is considered one of the best in the world.
But Djokovic also struggled in finding form, as he hit an astonishing eight double faults in the match, and could only win the match on a fifth match point because of the double faults from his racquet.
Djokovic also had a verbal exchange with a certain section of fans in the crowd during the third set and he was serving at 4-3 and on the verge of losing that game to Kohlschreiber. Unlike most players, Djokovic finds his form when he is aggravated, and that's exactly what happened in that game as he extended his lead to 5-3 in the third set.
Djokovic finally defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in a match that lasted for two hours and 37 minutes.