Novak Djokovic and defending champion Rafael Nadal needed a combined 14 match points to reach the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.
After Djokovic finally converted his 10th match point to beat Borna Coric 7-6 (7-2) 7-5, Nadal required four in a 6-1, 6-3 win against Aljaz Bedene 6-1, 6-3.
Djokovic first missed two match points with Coric serving at 5-3, then wasted another seven in a marathon game when serving for the match. The ninth-seeded Serb took a 40-0 lead in that game, but then hit one backhand long, another backhand wide, before an unforced error into the net.
At deuce, Coric successfully overturned a call to get a break point but Djokovic saved it with an ace. Djokovic won the next point to set up match point No. 6, but again hit a backhand wide.
An ace gave him a seventh chance, but Coric saved that one after Djokovic failed to retrieve his drop shot. Another ace made it No. 8, but Djokovic’s tame forehand allowed Coric an easy forehand winner.
On try No. 9, a poor backhand from Djokovic went into the net.
Coric finally broke to make it 5-5, but Djokovic broke straight back and the 10th match point did the trick with Coric sending a backhand long.
Djokovic hugged Coric at the net and then patted his opponent on the cheek.
“I could see him coming into the court really believing he can win the match. It was a real battle,” said Djokovic, who will next face fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria.
Hindered by a persistent right elbow injury, Djokovic said he is finally pain-free for the first time in two years — and a little rusty.
In other matches, Kei Nishikori of Japan overcame an early break to beat Daniil Medvedev of Russia 7-5, 6-2.
Nishikori returned from injury in February, after a torn tendon in his right wrist ruled him out of last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open.