Monte-Carlo MastersThe clay court season finally got underway with Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters at Monaco. World’s best players, including the trio of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal congregated at Monaco for the third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the season. These three have combined to win 72 Masters 1000 titles among themselves over the last 11 years with one of the three finishing as world no.1 in Emirates ranking since 2004. The biggest surprise on day 5 was the exit of no.2 seed Roger Federer, who suffered a shock defeat against French showman Gael Monfils. Another upset on day 5 was caused by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, when he stunned reigning champion and world no.9 Stanislas Wawrinka. However, Djokovic, Nadal, Raonic, Berdych, Cilic, Ferrer and Dimitrov had easier passages to the quarterfinals. Two players at the Monte-Carlo Masters were conspicuous by their absence. While it was too much to expect Andy Murray on tennis courts so soon after his one-week old wedding, Japan’s world no.4 Kei Nishikori has also abstained from this year’s engagements.

Roger Federer who was making his 12th appearance at Monte-Carlo, hoped for his maiden victory this year in the tournament, where he had reached the finals four times without ever winning it. His compatriot Wawrinka beat him last year, while Federer finished runners-up to Nadal for three straight years during 2006-08. But Gael Monfils had no desire to help the Swiss in his quest. The Frenchman turned up a great performance on Thursday in outplaying Federer 6-4, 7-6. Monfils dominated the game from the start but after he ran away with the first set, Federer made strong efforts in the second set and led 5-3 in the tiebreak. But the French star raised his game and reeled off four straight points to clinch victory in an hour and 44 minutes. World no.18 Monfils hit 22 winners to Federer’s 17 but what probably caused Federer’s downfall were 38 unforced errors from the world no.2. Monfils quarterfinal opponent will be Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who disposed of another Swiss Stan Wawrinka. Defending champion Wawrinka had won on two occasions in his previous three meetings with Dimitrov but couldn’t play with conviction on Thursday. Wawrinka committed 41 unforced errors and had just four winners against the ninth-seeded Dimitrov.

No.1 seed Novak Djokovic won his 14th match in a row as he made short work of Andreas Haider-Maurer, beating the Austrian 6-4, 6-0 to set up a quarterfinal clash with US Open winner Marin Cilic. The Serb, who received the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award a day earlier along with retired Chinese woman star LI Na, came to Monte-Carlo after completing wins at two ATP 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami. This tennis season, Djokovic has lost just 2 matches and his 26-2 record includes victory at the Australian Open. The eighth seeded Croatian Marin Cilic entered the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 7-6 victory over France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Also moving to quarterfinals were Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. Third seeded Nadal had a tough three-setter with USA’s John Isner before coming through 7-6, 4-6, 6-3. Eight-time Monte-Carlo winner Nadal had to save two set points in the first set before he won in the tie-break. But Isner took the second set from the Spaniard to force a decider. Nadal played creditably in the final set before wrapping up the match. He now faces countryman David Ferrer in the QFs. Ferrer defeated France’s Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-7, 6-1.

No.4 seeded Milos Raonic of Canada also needed three sets before overcoming Spain’s Tommy Robredo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Raonic will meet Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Berdych had to work hard before beating Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6, 6-4.