Monte Carlo: Djokovic d. Montanes

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Five minutes into his opening-round match against Albert Montanes, Novak Djokovic was down 0-40 on his serve at 1-1 in the first set. Forty minutes later, he was happily scribbling on the ATP’s victory camera lens at the side of the court, a 6-1, 6-0 winner. 

Djokovic began with a few cursory backhand errors, but once he found his range with that shot, the match was no contest. By the third game, his range had become pinpoint. At 1-2, he broke Montanes with a backhand winner on the outside of the sideline, and he held for 4-1 after putting the same shot on the very back edge of the baseline. Both times, Montanes inspected the marks dubiously, as if Djokovic’s shots couldn’t possibly have been good. Both times he had to concede that they were.

That’s about as much resistance as Montanes could muster today. He managed just one winner to his opponent’s 27, and the majority of points that he did win came on Djokovic’s unforced errors. Montanes was on defense from the start of virtually every rally; by the end of the first set, Djokovic was comfortable enough to go into experimental mode. He tried a few heavy topspin backhands, he tried a few more forays into the net than usual—he won eight of nine points up there—and he spent some time working on his kick serve into the ad court. The strong serving that Djokovic showed in Miami continued in his first match on clay: The Serb made 71 percent of his first balls and hit five aces. By the end, he didn’t even have to aim anywhere near the lines to crack winners past a demoralized, slump-shouldered Montanes. 

Djokovic’s next match will be against either Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson, or Pablo Carreño Busta. Until then, he’ll enjoy some time at his apartment in Monte Carlo. He certainly looked at home today.

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