Novak Djokovic shrugs off early rust
Novak Djokovic insisted he was happy with his season-opening effort on clay, despite a scratchy victory over Andreas Seppi at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The world No.1 produced a blistering start to go 5-0 up, but was made to work in the second set to edge out the 44th-ranked Italian 6-1, 6-4 in 88 minutes.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal then kicked off his campaign with a similarly indifferent straight-sets win against Jarkko Nieminen. But having played his first strokes on the red dirt surface in almost 12 months, the Serb sensation conceded his early-season rust was inevitable.
“I haven’t played a match on a clay court since Roland Garros last year, so I’m happy with how I played,” said Djokovic, winner of four of the past five Grand Slams.
“It takes about a week to get used to the clay. I had a tough match but I’m glad to get through.” The 24-year-old next faces Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round after the Ukrainian fired down 11 aces in his
6-2, 5-7, 6-1 win over Australian teen sensation Bernard Tomic.
“He’s a very talented player and has a lot of variety in his game, so it will be very difficult,” a cautious Djokovic added of his next opponent.
The five-time major champion is yet to win the Monaco event after skipping last year’s tournament in the midst of his stellar 43-match unbeaten streak. And he wasted no time signalling his intent on Court Central, rattling through the first set before his rival narrowly avoided the dreaded bagel.
Despite conceding an early break, Seppi provided greater resistance in the second set, saving a further three break points to stay in the match. Yet he was unable to dent Djokovic’s serve and the favourite comfortably held on to take his record against the 28-year-old to a perfect 7-0.
Meanwhile, Nadal was also below his best as he returned from injury to advance with a grinding 6-4, 6-3 win over Finn Nieminen. The seven-time champion showed no signs of the knee issue that forced him out of the Miami Masters last month.
But it was far from a vintage display from the Spaniard, who will need to improve considerably if he’s to continue his stranglehold on the tournament.