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Djokovic stunned by Davidovich Fokina on return to action in Monte-Carlo
What an incredible scalp to claim for the young Spaniard – defeating the returning world No 1
World No 1 Novak Djokovic suffered a shock defeat on his return to action at the Monte-Carlo Masters on Tuesday, beaten 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.
Out of sorts in the first set, Djokovic served for the second set at 5-4 only to be broken tamely but Davidovich Fokina could not quite gather himself again to snatch the tiebreak, allowing the 20-time Grand Slam champion to force a decider.
But the biggest win of the Spaniard’s career was imminent, coming through in the third set to take advantage of a tiring Djokovic and finish the match in just shy of three hours.
“This win is so special for me,” Davidovich Fokina said to television interviewers afterwards. “I grew up watching Nole – I’m a big fan. Here in Monte-Carlo, full of people, against the No 1, I enjoyed every moment. I’m so happy.”
Having played just one event in 2022 after his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 cost him the chance of playing at the Australian Open and then in Indian Wells and Miami, Djokovic looked rusty right from the start.
Djokovic had admitted that he would probably take some time to find his best form, having played so little competitive tennis this year, and so it proved as he made a stack of uncharacteristic unforced errors in tricky conditions, a strong breeze from one end of the Monte-Carlo Masters making pure ball-striking tough.
World No 46 Davidovich Fokina had won just seven games in his two previous meetings with the world No 1 but he reached the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros last year and knows his way around a clay court.
By contrast, Djokovic’s shot selection was not at its usual level, the drop shot proving especially elusive, and Davidovich Fokina broke twice for a 4-1 lead in the opener. Djokovic got one break back but Davidovich Fokina broke again as the Serb pulled a forehand wide.
Djokovic had a chance for an early break in the second set but netted a drop shot and the 22-year-old Spaniard held, before breaking for a 2-0 lead as Djokovic netted a forehand.
The third game of the set looked pivotal as Djokovic forced five break points but was thwarted each time by the speed and tenacity of Davidovich Fokina, although he will rue a couple of backhands that got away from him in the wind.
Nevertheless, Djokovic broke back for 3-2 only to hand Davidovich another break, the Spaniard chasing down a drop shot and playing it out of the world No 1’s reach on the angle.
Davidovich hurled himself on the clay on the opening point of the sixth game, scraping skin off his knuckles and leaving him with a bloody knee.
Djokovic levelled with a love service game and broke to love to lead 5-4 only to play a loose service game, allowing Davidovich Fokina back in. The Spaniard was two points from victory at 6-5 and 30-30 on the Djokovic serve but the world No 1 held firm to force a tiebreak.
Davidovich Fokina led 4-2 in the tiebreak but Djokovic cut out the drop shot, knuckled down and finally snatched the set when he rifled a forehand pass down the line for a winner after an 85-minute set.