Novak Djokovic fails to Master Monte Carlo after shock defeat to Dominic Thiem

Novak Djokovic lost in three sets to Austrian Dominic Thiem
Updated 19 April 2018
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Novak Djokovic fails to Master Monte Carlo after shock defeat to Dominic Thiem

  • Former world No.1 still searching for form after returning from injury.
  • Serb is without a title in nearly a year.

A day after needing 10 match points to advance, Novak Djokovic did not even come close to getting one.
The former world No.1 lost to Dominic Thiem 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 in the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters despite saying recently he was finally playing pain free after two years of struggles with a persistent right elbow injury.
Djokovic saved one match point against Thiem, but indecision appeared to cost him on the second. The ninth-seeded Djokovic seemed to change his mind about which shot to play, initially shaping up for a low backhand volley at the net but instead going for a backhand which went long.
Djokovic did save three set points in the first set, and the momentum carried over into the tiebreak. But his backhand let him down after that, with Thiem getting consecutive breaks and holding for the second set when Djokovic patted a two-handed backhand into the net.
Thiem, who also beat Djokovic on clay in last year’s French Open quarterfinals, will next face defending champion Rafael Nadal or Karen Khachanov.
Third-seeded Alexander Zverev could face his brother in the last eight after beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. He will next face either Mischa Zverev or Richard Gasquet.
“Hopefully my brother will win and it will be an amazing day tomorrow,” the younger Zverev said.
Second-seeded Marin Cilic advanced without hitting a ball after Milos Raonic pulled out with a right knee injury. Cilic, the Australian Open runner-up, will next play Kei Nishikori or Andreas Seppi.
Raonic said he hurt his knee during his second-round win on Wednesday.
“It was difficult yesterday early in the match, I rotated on my knee. I thought through treatment and so-forth it would be better,” Raonic said. “I was predisposed to some risk and I was unable to play with that amount of pain. I’ll know more in the (coming) days.”
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 bizarre incident involving a ball boy.
After dropping his serve to trail 4-1, Bautista Agut cleared a ball from the back of the court just as a ball boy was sprinting across. The ball, which was traveling slowly, bounced and clipped the ball boy on the head. Bautista Agut raised a hand in apology but still got a warning from the chair umpire.
Goffin, a semifinalist in Monte Carlo last year, was confused by what happened.
“I just saw the ball directly hitting the ball boy. I was surprised to see he (Bautista Agut) only got a warning,” Goffin said. “For me, if you send a ball onto the ball boy’s head, you’re (kicked) off. I don’t know what the rules are exactly, how he only got a warning. He said the ball bounced and the ball boy just happened to be there. Bad luck for him. But in any case, it’s just an incident.”
Goffin will next play Grigor Dimitrov in their first meeting on clay. The fourth-seeded Bulgarian beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.


Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

Updated 44 min 52 sec ago
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Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

  • New boss Jorge Jesus to give start to new star signing after $17 million move from Al-Ain last week.
  • Al-Hilal coach keen to put on a good show in London and start season with silverware against Al-Ittihad.

LONDON: Jorge Jesus confirmed Omar Abdulrahman will make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad on Saturday.
The UAE playmaker joined the Saudi Pro League champions last week in a loan deal from Al-Ain that was worth $17 million, a fee that has only been surpassed once in football history. 
The 26-year-old has been training with his new teammates at English football’s HQ at St. George’s Park this week and traveled down to London on Friday with the rest of the team ahead of the showpiece game at Loftus Road.
Abdulrahman has not played since May, when Al-Ain were dumped out of the AFC Champions League by Lekhwiya, and he was not considered for the Arab Club Champions Club on Sunday, but Jesus said the 2016 Asian Player of the Year is line to make his first appearance for his boyhood club this weekend.
“Omar is training with the team for five or six days,” said Jesus. “Intelligent players like Omar learn fast, so that’s why he will be part of the game.”
There are various subplots to the game in west London, not least the fact that Al-Ittihad coach Ramon Diaz comes up against the club that fired him in February. He won the double in the first season in Riyadh and then choreographed Al-Hilal’s run to the final of the AFC Champions League in his second. Now he goes up against Jesus, the Portuguese tactician who replaced him this summer.
“It’s true Diaz could know the players more and this could influence the match, but they are working with my ideas today and I expect the match to be an excellent game,” said Jesus.
Al-Hilal lost the Super Cup the last time it was held in London, losing to Al-Ahli on penalties in a thriller at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground. Jesus knows this year’s match could provide a launchpad for the season ahead and broaden the appeal of football in the Kingdom. 
“Everybody knows the importance of this match, because we play outside Saudi Arabia,” he said. “It represents the image of our football. We are happy to be present in London and play the Saudi Super Cup here. The eyes of Europe sees London as the center of football, so we need to create a good image of Saudi football.”

Jorge Jesus is looking to get his reign as Al-Hilal coach off to a winning start at QPR's Loftus Road ground on Saturday. 


Jesus will be without the injured Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed while national team full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani will undergo a late fitness test. 
“We are missing some players but that should not reduce the importance of some players we have in the squad,” said Jesus. “We have to find our best combination of players to go to the match with.”
Mohammad Al-Shalhoub will captain the side from midfield following the departure of Osama Hawsawi and knows bragging rights are up for grabs on Saturday between Saudi Arabia’s two most successful clubs who have won the top prize in the Kingdom 23 times between them.
“It’s one match, there is no other chance,” he said. “We will do our best to win the cup. We can start the season well if we win this cup. We will fight hard to win, but Ittihad is doing their hardest to win it, too. We are super motivated to show a good level and start with a Saudi Super Cup victory.”
Al-Hilal labored to a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab on Sunday night and know they will need to be much nearer their best against last season’s King’s Cup winners.
“In the beginning of the season, you can have some difficulties,“ Al-Shalhoub said. “Our first home game in the Arab Cup we showed a good level, but we have to me more ready against Ittihad.”