Djokovic suffers early exit at Monte Carlo Masters on comeback

Novak Djokovic’s defeat to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina marks the first time he has lost his opening match at a tournament since falling to Marin Klizan in Barcelona in 2018; the world No 1 ran out of steam in the deciding set to lose in two hours and 54 minutes

Last Updated: 12/04/22 6:43pm

    Novak Djokovic suffered an early exit at the Monte Carlo Masters to Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

    Novak Djokovic suffered an early exit at the Monte Carlo Masters to Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

    Novak Djokovic’s lack of match fitness caught up with him at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday as the world No 1 exited the event at the hands of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

    The Serb, playing in just his second event of the year, made 51 unforced errors in difficult conditions to go out 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 in the second round.

    Djokovic returned to the court for the first time since Dubai in February, where he lost in the quarter-finals to Jiri Vesely, but the Spanish world No 46 was far stronger in the deciding set to run away with victory.

    The 20-time Grand Slam champion had elected not to attempt to compete in the US hard-court swing due to restrictions relating to his Covid-19 vaccination status.

    A two-time winner in Monte Carlo, Djokovic was staring at a swift defeat when he lost the first set and was then immediately broken at the start of the second.

    The Spaniard showed his inexperience with a needless dive at the start of the seventh game of the set, prompting injury fears and enabling Djokovic to reel off 10 points in a row as he broke back to love to wrestle the upper-hand.

    The momentum swung back in Davidovich Fokina’s direction when Djokovic, serving for the set, conjured four unforced errors to allow his opponent to break back and ultimately force a tie-break.

    But having come back from 4-2 down to win the breaker, Djokovic’s lack of match practice told as he was broken three more times in a one-sided deciding set.

    9 vs Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at Monte Carlo Masters (most in best-of-three-sets)

    9 vs Dominic Thiem at 2019 French Open

    9 vs Rafael Nadal at 2012 French Open

    9 vs Guillermo Lopez at 2005 Wimbledon

    9 vs Marat Safin at 2005 Australian Open

    “This win is so special to me because I grew up watching Nole (Djokovic) and I’m a big fan of his,” Davidovich Fokina said in his post-match interview.

    “I knew Nole didn’t have the confidence because he didn’t play a lot this season. I had my chances in the beginning of the match and I took them.

    “When he won the second set it was tough mentally, but I work hard to be focused. I had to be prepared for the war.”

    Britain’s Dan Evans defeated Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 6-0 7-6 (7-4) in the opening match of the day to reach the second round of the prestigious clay court tournament.

    Last year’s semi-finalist will face David Goffin after the Belgian overcame Jiri Lehecka 6-4 6-3.

    Cameron Norrie, who has surged into the world’s top 10, faces world No 37 Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Wednesday.

    Nadal skips Barcelona Open, return date still uncertain

    Rafael Nadal is still uncertain when he can return to competitive tennis

    Rafael Nadal is still uncertain when he can return to competitive tennis

    Rafael Nadal is still uncertain when he can return to competitive tennis after withdrawing from this month’s ATP event in Barcelona as he recovers from a rib injury.

    The Spaniard, who has won 21 Grand Slam singles titles, was ruled out last month for up to six weeks with a stress fracture in his rib.

    Nadal complained of a chest issue during his run to the final of the ATP 1000 event in Indian Wells last month.

    Tests in Barcelona revealed “a stress fracture of the third left costal arch”.

    Madrid and Rome host ATP Masters 1000 events next month and Nadal would be hoping to participate to get matches under his belt before the May 22-June 5 French Open, which he has won a record 13 times.

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