Djokovic beats Monfils for record 18th straight time to open Madrid bid in style

The world No 1 is the first man to beat an opponent 18 consecutive times on the ATP Tour

Novak Djokovic Madrid 2022 AI/Reuters/Panoramic

Novak Djokovic became the first man to ever beat an opponent 18 times on the ATP Tour when he defeated Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round of the Madrid Masters on Tuesday.

The world No 1, back in Madrid for the first time since he won the title in 2019, was pushed early on but after a rain delay at 2-2, he pulled away to set up a thrilling third-round meeting with either Denis Shapovalov or Andy Murray.

“I didn’t play so well in the two, three previous tournaments I played this year. I’m still finding my groove but I’m pleased with the way I played the right shots at the right time, and tactically.”

Beaten in the final in Belgrade, after an early loss in Monte-Carlo, Djokovic looked much closer to his best, perhaps inspired by the sight of Monfils across the net.

Monfils began strongly and had two break point chances at 1-1 only for Djokovic to save them both and stay ahead. The Frenchman held for 2-2 and it was deuce on the Djokovic serve when the rain fell, forcing the players off the court.

The interruption seemed to affect Monfils more than Djokovic, who after a chat with coach Goran Ivanisevic on his serve, resumed with an ace, held serve and then broke in the next game on his way to a 5-2 lead, which he maintained to take the opener.

An early break put Djokovic in charge in the second and a second one gave him the insurance he needed to relax and begin to play some of his best tennis.

Monfils, playing his first clay-court match of the season, battled on and had two break points on the Djokovic serve, the 35-year-old served out to ensure he stays world No 1 for a while longer yet.

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