To listen click here
Monte Carlo, April 12 – Novak Djokovic made a winning return to action as he fought his way into the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters with a 7-6(5), 6-2 win over Russian qualifier Ivan Gakhov.
It was Djokovic’s first tournament in over a month as he was forced to miss the Sunshine swing — Indian Wells and Miami Open — both ATP 1000 masters events, after he was denied entry to the United States over his vaccination status.
After receiving a bye in the opening round, the World No. 1 faced a spirited challenge from World No. 198 Gakhov and was in danger of losing the opening set. But Djokovic navigated the big moments well to seal the win.
“It was probably, if you can call it this way, an ugly tennis win for me today,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “I haven’t played my best, particularly in the first set. And I kind of expected that that was going to happen in a way with swirly conditions, a lot of wind today, changing directions.
“It’s different practising and then playing an official match on clay, (where) I guess no two bounces are the same. It’s always quite unpredictable what’s going to happen. But all in all, I’m just pleased with the way I held my nerves in the important moments and I managed to clinch the two-set win.”
Gakhov was the fourth alternate into the qualifying field and took full advantage of the opportunity to reach the main draw and earn his first ATP Tour win to advance to the second round. But Djokovic was playing his 1,254th tour-level match compared to Gakhov’s third, and that experience paid dividends in the critical moments.
“I never saw Ivan play before today to be honest. I’ve seen a little bit of his video from yesterday’s match and that’s all. That was not the best preparation, but he’s a young player coming up from the Challenger Tour and he just was on a roll,” Djokovic said.
The Serb is pursuing a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 title this week and his third trophy in Monte-Carlo. The top seed will play an Italian in the third round — Lorenzo Musetti or Luca Nardi.