The clay season in ATP Tour started in full swing, as the world's top class players have already started their campaign in Rolex Monte Carlo Masters. Despite the lack of some great names, the opening rounds of presitgious tournament in Monte Carlo were highly awaited. Comeback of Novak Djokovic is one of the best highlights during these days. The multi Grand Slam champion was not allowed to take part in Sunshine Double swing and came back to compete today after more than 5 weeks of break. Djokovic started to play from second round, as top 8 seeds received byes in opening matches. His first opponent was Ivan Gakhov. The 26 years-old Russian, ranked 198th in ATP rankings, made quite a surprise, advancing to the main draw from qualies and eliminating Mackenzie Mcdonald in first round after three-sets match 7-6(6) 2-6 6-3. Djokovic was a clear pre-match favorite, but opening set had quite a surprising turn of event. The Serbian had to shed the rust and did not show any dominant performance against highly motivated and well playing opponent. The set was settled after 70 minutes of play, where each player broke opponent's serve once. Tiebreak was decided by one minibreak advantage, as Djokovic clinched it with a score 7-5. Second set was also a tight battle till some point, as both players were holding serves without issues till the score 2-2. Then, Djokovic raised up his level and secured the 7-6(5) 6-2 victory after winning 4 games in a row.
"It was probably, if you can call it this way, an ugly tennis win for me today. I have not 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 is different practising and then playing an official match on clay, where I guess no two bounces are the same. It is always quite unpredictable what is going to happen. But all in all, I am just pleased with the way I held my nerves I think in the important moments and I managed to clinch the two-set win." - said Djokovic in his post-match interview.
Other main contenders also do well as for now. Current title holder - Stefanos Tsitsipas, who took the victory in last two editions of Rolex Monte Carlo Masters, has not had a chance to get any match battle on clay yet, as his opponent Benjamin Bonzi pulled out after just 5 games due to an injury. Andrey Rublev needed to make much more effort to secure his round of 16 spot. The tournament's seed #5 was playing against Jaume Munar, well known as a dangerous player on clay surface. Rublev was a confident pre-match favorite with an odd 1.20, but it was the Spaniard who started better, winning the opening set 6-4. Rublev was in a need to make up this gap and did it well, dominating two following sets, and moving into next round with a score 4-6 6-2 6-2.
Hubert Hurkacz is another player apart from Djokovic, Tsitsipas and Rublev, who has already booked place in round of 16. The Pole did not get bye in first round as being #10 seed, and needed to play two matches already. Both of them were demanding three-setters against lower ranked opponents. Hurkacz has earned his last match victory before coming into Monte Carlo during a crazy 3,5 hours showdown against Thanasi Kokkinakis in Miami. His first round's match against Laslo Djere was not much different, as the world's number 13 has needed 3:21 hours to prevail in another marathon consisted of three long sets, all ended up in tiebreaks. The match against Djere was quite a story of wasting chances by Hurkacz, who produced multiple chances to clinch this victory much earlier and without all the on-court drama. Despite a slow start and being broken early in first set, the Pole leveled the score and had two breakpoint chances in 11th game. He did not convert any of it and lost first set in tiebreak, 5-7. Second set started better for Hurkacz, who broke Djere and was already 3-0 up. Then, the slump of serving performance happened for him, as Djere won following 4 games. Despite a couple of brakes and other breakpoint chances, it was another set settled in tiebreak, this time on favour of Hurkacz, who clinched it with a score 7-5. Deciding set had similar turn of events to opening one. Djere was first one to break, but lost his lead later on. Hurkacz gained control on this set and produced multiple chances to end this match. First one came in 9th game, when Djere defended matchpoint within own serve. Following that, Hurkacz was serving for the match and leading *40-15 in his own game, but did not manage to cross the finish line and allowed his opponent to level the score again. He could even lose it, as Djere produced his one and only matchpoint in 12th game, but Hurkacz cleared the danger and forced decisive tiebreak, where occured to be better, again with a score 7-5. Despite a good serving performance (14 aces to 5 unforced errors, while Djere scored just 2 aces to 10 unforces errors), and creating 17 breakpoints in compare to just 6 made by Djere, the Pole needed as much as 3:21 hours to advance into second round.
Second round's match of Hurkacz against Jack Draper was another three-setter, but this time it took just 2.5 hours. The tournament's 10th seed won 6-3 6-7(3) 7-5. The Brit was fighting well and did not stand out visually against his higher rated opponent. Both players created 8 breakpoints in this match. Hurkacz raised up his level in compare to first round, 20 aces scored is also an impressive stat. The Pole was leading 4-2 in deciding set, but Draper broke back in 7th game. When everything seemed that Hurkacz will need to fight in another deciding set's tiebreak, the Pole has surprisingly broke Draper in 12th game. The Brit was leading *40-0 during own service game and barely one could expect any other settlement, than tiebreak. Despite that, Hurkacz won 5 points in a row, created one and only matchpoint which denied the 13th game there. The level bar goes up, as the winner of match between Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman will be Hurkacz's opponent in round of 16.
First round, which was all completed today, delivered also some other thrilling on-courts battles. Lorenzo Sonego defeated Ugo Humbert 3-6 7-5 7-5 after 2:57 hours of play. The Frenchman was on a front foot in deciding set, leading with a break advantage and serving for the match. Humbert did not manage to close this match despite being *5-4 40-15 up in third set. Sonego came out of that somehow, leveling the score and won the match with gaining another break two games later. Alexander Zverev needed to fight back in a match against Alexander Bublik. The German lost first set despite being clear pre-match favorite with an odd 1.16. Bublik won opening set 6-3, but Zverev managed to turn this match over and won it 3-6 6-2 6-4 in his first clay match after horrific injury suffered during last year's Roland Garros.
Wednesday's on-court action will emerge all the line-up for the round of 16 with 12 singles matches to be played in goal to complete second round of Rolex Monte Carlo Masters.