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Djokovic Battles Past Monaco; Nieminen Ousts Del Potro

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic was made to work hard for his quarter-final spot.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic came from behind for the second day in a row on Thursday, but credited his “inner strength” for pulling through to defeat Juan Monaco 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. The Serb had survived a scare against Mikhail Youzhny in the second round, and lost serve four times as he battled past Monaco in just over two hours.

Djokovic is looking to find his feet in his first clay-court tournament of the season after twisting his ankle a week and a half ago on Davis Cup duty in the U.S.A. The Belgrade native is a two-time runner-up at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2009 and 2012.

“It's another big test obviously, again a two-hour match,” said Djokovic. “Obviously I'm not physically out there feeling my best. Somehow feels that I always miss that half a step. But I'm trying. I'm fighting. After I lost the first set today, I tried to find that inner strength. I found it again. So that's a positive thing. Every day brings a new challenge and we'll see what happens tomorrow.”

In the quarter-finals, Djokovic will face Finn Jarkko Nieminen, who edged fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4) in two hours and 38 minutes. The 31-year-old Nieminen missed a match point at 4-5 in the third set, but broke for a 6-4 lead in the deciding tie-break and closed out victory as del Potro hit a forehand wide.

The left-hander is through to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final since 2006, when he reached the last eight at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris (l. to Robredo). Nieminen has beaten Djokovic once before, four years ago in Sydney, but trails the Serb 1-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

France’s Richard Gasquet advanced to the quarter-finals with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over ninth seed Marin Cilic. The seventh-seeded Gasquet broke serve five times, to counter being broken on three occasions, and wrapped up victory in one hour and 40 minutes.

The 26-year-old Gasquet is coming off a semi-final showing at the Sony Open Tennis in Miami (l. to Murray) and has won two ATP World Tour titles this season in Doha (d. Davydenko) and Montpellier (d. Paire).

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