There were rumours of a wrist injury and plenty of speculation about how the return of Boris Becker to the practice courts would affect Novak Djokovic, but the world no. 2 was utterly untroubled in a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Albert Montanes.
It took Djokovic just 45 minutes to secure his place in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. World no. 57 Montanes stretched Djokovic to three sets in Monaco back in 2009 and earned two break points in Djokovic’s third service game after the Serb opened with a double fault, but the 2013 champion brushed both aside with service winners, broke in the next game and did not look back on his way to the finish line, keeping Montanes to just one winner in a clay-court masterclass and finishing with a perfectly-executed net approach and clinical volley.
‘For the first match on clay, it was great,’ said Djokovic. ‘I lost only one game, so there were not too many flaws in my game that I could recall. On the other side, I've had an opponent who is a specialist on this surface, but he hasn't played even close to his highest level. He was making a lot of unforced errors.
‘I was just trying to use the court well, not allow him to get into a rhythm. I was changing the angles. I was coming to the net, being aggressive. Just very good first match.’
Djokovic could face Gael Monfils in the third round after the charismatic French player recorded a solid 6-4, 7-6(4) win over fourteenth seed Kevin Anderson. Anderson was one of three seeds to fall today as Andreas Seppi beat thirteenth seed Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 7-6(4), who had not played a match since February, and qualifier Michael Llodra beat sixteenth seed Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 6-2, who has now lost six matches in a row.Youzhny and Janowicz were seeded to meet Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer respectively in the third round.
Fifth seed Tomas Berdych was made to work very hard against his second-round opponent, Dimitry Tursunov, eventually prevailing with a 7-5, 6-4 victory to join Djokovic and Monfils in the third round, but his win looked like plain sailing compared to ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s tussle with Philipp Kohlschreiber. Tsonga appeared to be coasting to victory until a moment’s inattention saw Kohlschreiber break for 3-1 in the second set. The German promptly caught fire, peeling off the winners as Tsonga struggled to keep the ball in play.
After an errant forehand gave up a double break and a 1-5 deficit for Tsonga, the French player called the trainer at the end of the second set to receive some attention, seemingly on his toe, and the third set was a battle both players would probably prefer to forget. Tsonga did well to hold from 15-30 at 1-1 and Kohlschreiber, serving from behind, was always going to be under greater pressure. At 4-5, Kohlschreiber played himself into trouble with unforced errors but Tsonga could not punish him for it at first, missing makeable returns on second serves on the first two match points before a final wild forehand from Kohlschreiber gave up the match.
Grigor Dimitrov was also coasting before he suddenly found himself dropping the second set against Casablanca finalist Marcel Granollers, and was also broken at the start of the third as Granollers landed a perfect lob after the Bulgarian failed to do enough with his first backhand volley. Dimitrov knuckled down, broke back, and won the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to set up a meeting with Albert Ramos on Wednesday.
Unseeded Gilles Simon was not able to recover from a mid-match lapse: Playing qualifier Teymuraz Gabashvili, the world no. 28 took his foot off the gas after taking the first set and dropped the match as the big-hitting Russian struck 34 winners to 25 unforced errors in the second and third sets. Gabashvili’s reward is a second-round encounter with Rafael Nadal.