Djokovic battles past Coric to reach third round

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Novak Djokovic was knocked out of the Monte Carlo Masters by an inspired Dominic Thiem in the third round while world number one Rafael Nadal cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Russian Karen Khachanov on Thursday.

There is pressure - he needs to win the title to stay world No 1 ahead of Roger Federer, who will be watching from afar as he again skips the clay-court season - but it is only external pressure.

Thiem regrouped for a love hold, and Djokovic had to come through deuce to reach the tie-break-then dropped only two points for the set, 7-6 (2).

Thiem can take confidence from having beaten Nadal twice on clay, including in the quarterfinals of last year's Rome Masters. Two-time champion Djokovic would face the man who he described, after reaching the third round, as possibly among the top three clay-court players on the tour. The Austrian seemed at a loss tactically, but he survived a break point and at last took the lead in the fifth game.

"It was a good victory - straight sets against a hard opponent", said Nadal.

Djokovic squandered nine match points before clinching a 7-6 (2) 7-5 second-round victory over Coric. I'm getting to [it], I'm feeling like it's been getting better every day.

"It's the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him", said Thiem of playing Rafa.

"I could have won the match earlier definitely, but it was great to deal with these kinds of emotions again", the 12-time Grand Slam champion said. "I think I'm able to do that".

Hindered by a persistent right elbow injury, Djokovic says he is finally pain-free for the first time in two years — and a little rusty.

Thiem beat Djokovic in straight sets in the French Open quarterfinals previous year — including 6-0 in the third — but Djokovic won their other five meetings. Thiem had his revenge in Buenos Aires two years later, upsetting Nadal in the semifinals in a tight three set battle that went to a tiebreaker in the third.

Gasquet will now face Zverev's younger brother Alexander on his 21st birthday after the German defeated compatriot Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 4-6 6-4.

Belgian sixth seed David Goffin won 6-4 7-5 against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut.

Frenchman Richard Gasquet, though, denied Zverev a meeting with his older brother Mischa by seeing off the serve-and-volleyer 6-2, 7-5.

Sixth-seeded David Goffin also made it through after beating Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-4, 7-5 in a match that included a weird incident involving a ball boy.

The Spanish player raised a hand in apology but received a warning from the umpire.

Goffin will play fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the semi-finals in a repeat of last year's ATP Tour Finals final, after the Bulgarian came back from a set and a break down to beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.