Monte-Carlo Day Two: Djokovic not quite himself yet

No. 2 ranked Novak Djokovic managed to escape an early round defeat against Gilles Simon of France. This tournament could answer a lot of questions about what to expect from the rest of the 2017 season.

Novak Djokovic (zimbio.com)

MONTE-CARLO – The most anticipated match of day two at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters was Novak Djokovic’s opening round against Gilles Simon. After a disappointing early round loss to Vesely last year and a shaky beginning in the 2017 season with a 12-3 record – Djokovic lost to Istomin in Melbourne and twice to Kyrgios in Acapulco and Indian Wells – the Serb is looking to finally find his form during the clay court season.

Djokovic’s form wasn’t as convincing as his supporters would have hoped. When asked about his performance during the post-match press conference, Djokovic said that he was happy with his level of play during the first set and the beginning of the second: “I was playing solid tennis and controlling the match. Then I started making too many mistakes and my opponent was executing his shots with precise angles at every opportunity.”

If Djokovic wants to find the form that he produced in the first six months of the 2016 season, he will have to play at a higher level for longer than 45 minutes.

Nole explained how this win is extremely important to help rebuild his confidence: “I was in danger of losing the match and still managed to turn it around.” When Simon served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Djokovic’s chances appeared to be bleak. Gilles Simon has been as high as No. 6 in the world and has beaten an astonishing 30 top ten players in his career. Despite being a world class player, Simon wasn’t able to capitalize on his opportunities at the end of the match. Djokovic didn’t produce anything special in the last three games and Simon was only able to win 5 of the last 17 points. Djokovic’s 6-3,3-6,7-5 win was a combination of Novak’s ability to rise to the occasion and Simon’s inability to close the match.

A positive that Djokovic can take away from today’s win is that he fought hard until the last point instead of accepting defeat before the match was over as it appeared in his previous losses to Istomin and Kyrgios earlier this year. On the other hand, he is not playing to his usual standard as of yet. He is facing the winner of the clash between Kachanov and Carreno Busta in the next round. “I am always very optimistic when playing in this particular tournament no matter who is on the other side of the net,” Djokovic candidly explained after the match.

I couldn’t help but notice the baby bump of Djokovic’s wife while sitting courtside for today’s match. I later found out that Jelena is in fact expecting their second child in August, even if the news hasn’t been officially announced yet. I hope that this event will have positive consequences on Novak’s mental state.

It is clear that Nole had to deal with some off-court distractions in the second half of 2016. This tournament might clarify many key factors that will influence the rest of the 2017 season, not only about Djokovic but also about Nadal and Murray. Rafa has had a convincing start to his 2017 campaign, even if he suffered a major disappointment when he failed to close out the Australian Open final despite being up a break in the fifth set. At the moment, Murray is probably the least talked-about No. 1 ranked player of the last few years, so it will be interesting to see how he will respond in the European swing of the season. Stan Wawrinka is talked about even less, despite the fact that he won this tournament in 2014 against Roger Federer.

If Nadal manages to win the tournament for the tenth time, it will certainly be a historical event.

Young rising star Borna Coric was still on a high from his first ATP title in Marrakech a couple of days ago and suffered an early loss to Jeremy Chardy of France. No. 10 ranked Tsonga – always a crowd favorite in these parts of the world – lost a competitive battle against his countryman No. 56 Mannarino.

Nadal and Murray will headline tomorrow’s session. Nadal will face Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Murray is up against Gilles Muller. Andy leads their head-to-head 5-0. An extremely interesting match-up will be the clash between Wawrinka and Vesely.

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )

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