In a clash between surely the two best clay courters now around, defending champion and world #1 Rafael Nadal takes on Dominic Thiem, the only man to beat him past year on the red dirt. I understand that it's quite hard to play match after match on a very high level if I didn't have too many matches behind me, if I had an injury, if I had an absence from the Tour for six months.
"It's the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him", said Thiem of playing Rafa. Djokovic saved one match point against Thiem but indecision appeared to cost him on the second.
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.
And Nadal wrapped up a straight-sets triumph with a ruthless smash on his first match point.
But in classic Djokovic fashion, the Serb broke, and then pulled back a 0-30 deficit with five straight points: 5-5. 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.
Russia's Andrey Rublev (above) competes against Austria's Dominic Thiem (below) in the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament, in Monaco.
Earlier, French number one Lucas Pouille blew a one-set lead to be dumped out by Zverev's older brother Mischa in a third-set tie-break.
"Hopefully my brother will win and it will be an wonderful day tomorrow", the younger Alexander Zverev said. I was surprised he only had a warning.
Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., withdrew from the tournament just before his third-round match against second-seed Marin Cilic. I had the feeling that my movements have been better than yesterday, and I was able to take the control of the point more times than yesterday from the baseline, and more inside the court.
Croatia's Cilic will face either Kei Nishikori or Italian qualifier Andreas Seppi next. "I thought through treatment and so-forth it would be better", Raonic said. After consultation with the doctors, I needed to get down to the bottom of the issue and I was at risk to cause further pain.
Belgian sixth seed David Goffin held off a late fightback from Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the last eight with a 6-4, 7-5 win, in a match that saw the Spaniard accidentally hit a ballboy with the ball.
After losing his serve to trail 4-1, Bautista Agut cleared a ball from the back of the court as a ball boy was sprinting across. He was saying the ball bounced, and the ball boy was there by coincidence. "That's all I can say". If you do so, I'm going to have chances tomorrow.
But Goffin broke again and served out the match at the third attempt to book a quarter-final against Bulgarian fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6 6-3 6-4.