Novak Djokovic made a winning start at the Monte Carlo Masters, beating world no. 198 Ivan Gakhov 7-6, 6-2 in an hour and 47 minutes. The Serb played his first match since Dubai and did not feel good on the court, struggling to find his strokes and still emerging at the top in straight sets.
Novak described his victory as ‘winning ugly,’ not liking his performance but still going through. Gakhov played his second Masters 1000 match and made a name for himself in the opener, attacking and keeping the points on his racquet.
Gakhov broke Djokovic once in the opener to remain in contention and got broken three times, twice in the second set when he ran out of steam. Novak hit 14 winners and 21 unforced errors, with Ivan adding 24 direct points and 31 mistakes.
The Russian had the upper hand in the more advanced exchanges, playing well from both wings and mixing his strokes nicely.
Novak Djokovic did not play well against world no. 198 in Monte Carlo.
However, the Serb left the rival behind in the fastest rallies up to four strokes to bring the victory home.
Both players saved two break points in the opener’s games five and six to remain neck and neck. Novak missed a forehand in the seventh game to get broken and fall 4-3 behind. He broke back in the next one after Ivan’s loose forehand, and they both served well in the next four games to introduce a tie break after an hour.
Djokovic moved 6-3 up with a service winner and clinched the third set point for 7-5 after an hour and nine minutes. Novak raised his level in the second set and grabbed a break at 2-2 after a left-hander’s double fault. Djokovic broke again in game seven after an entertaining rally and served for the victory at 5-2.
Novak saved a break point in the eighth game and seized the second match point with an unreturned serve to emerge at the top and move into the third round. “Many things did not work well for me today, especially in the first set.
Winning ugly is the best way to describe the match; I played ugly tennis and did not feel well, but I still won. I did not play well in Monte Carlo in the previous two years, and it’s important to win the opening match and break the ice. I hope to play better in the upcoming days,” Novak Djokovic said.