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Joker, Nadal in fine shape

April 19, 2012 | 11:09 PM

It had the look of a competitive match, and indeed it was - JOKER only win 6-4 in the 3rd set - but there wasn't any real doubt about whether Joker would come back from down a set to Dolgopolov. The Ukrainian first strike artist jumped out to take the first set 6-2, breaking on 2 of 2 opportunities and defending 2 of his own. Ten minutes later in the 2nd game of the second set, he was broken on the 2nd of two break points from 15-40, and broken again to lose 6-1. Joker didn't let him have a break point after the 1st set, and converted 2 of 5 in the 2nd set and 1 of 2 in the third. The difference in the end was only 10 points, but it might as well have been 30. A healthy Joker isn't losing these matches on clay or any other surface, and he looks healthy.

For RAFA, who once again has allowed the media to wonder how his knee will hold up, there was no sign of any problem as he beat Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1 without allowing a break point. This one was as uncompetitive as the score indicates: Rafa won 72% of the points, a margin as wide as any seen on the ATP tour this year. Outside of the 2 games he won, the Russian barely won 1 point per game.

The #3 and 4 seeds, Murray and Tsonga, also had short matches. Murray's ended before the first set was over, with him leading 6-5 over the again and apparently ailing Frenchman Benneteau, who dropped out for the Tsonga fought off a set point against Verdasco on his serve at 5-6 in the tie-breaker with a gutsy point (drop shot approach from the alley and a dash to cover the cross court with a forehand volley put-away), and then finished efficiently, 7-6 (7), 6-2.

The other 4 quarterfinalists:

- # 6 seed Berdych overcame Nishikori, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, and will face Murray in Joker's half

- unseeded Robin Haase beat Bellucci 6-2, 6-3 and plays Joker

- #9 seed Simon needed 3 sets also to beat #7 seed Tipsarevic, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1; he faces Tsonga in Rafa's half

- unseeded Wawrinka beat #8 seed Almagro 6-3, 6-3, and plays Rafa


Monte Carlo quarters set (4/19.12)

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