What start to the clay court season! After months of domination, Novak Djokovic slipped and tumbled out of his 2016 clay court debut today losing to Jiri Vesely 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the second round at Monte Carlo.
The loss snapped Djokovic’s 21-match Masters win streak and gave him his worst loss by ranking in six years!
“He played very solid. He was serving very big. He was playing tactically good and aggressive,” Djokovic said after. “When he was a break up in the third set, he was playing bravely. He was coming in, (hitting) drop shots, big serves. He was going for it. He deserved to have it.
“I have to congratulate the better player today on the court and just move on from there,” Djokovic said. “It is what it is. Sometimes you don’t play your best and you lose.”
And Djokovic was far from his best. After consecutive wins at Indian Wells and then Miami, Djokovic was sloppy and slow at times on the court today, and he admitted after of fatigue.
“For me, there were just very few things I could take out from today’s match as a positive. I was playing really, really bad,” he added. “I wasn’t feeling any freshness.
“I will get a long break now,” Djokovic said. “The time off will serve me well, mentally mostly.”
And Djokovic needs that break. So unless he loses early again in Madrid next month, there’s not much to read into this one. Novak’s still king.
“This is a proof nobody’s unbeatable,” said Djokovic. “Happens so many times in my career that I lose a match. It’s not the first time.”
And it won’t be the last.
Vesely, who’s still only 22 but is kind of lost in this next generation wave, did just enough to take advantage of Djokovic and hit some key dropshots down the stretch.
“I’m just very, very happy,” said Vesely. “It’s something amazing actually. When I went on court, I had completely different thinking, like I hope to win a game or I really hope to do well. But I really had no idea that I really would be able to beat Novak today. So for me it’s just something what I still can’t believe it really happened.
“Novak wasn’t at his best level, that’s for sure, and he made a lot of mistakes from the beginning,” Vesely added. “That’s what gave me a little bit more confidence, creating the rallies. I didn’t give him too much rhythm.”
So Djokovic will get a few weeks off to recharge, and that allows the rest of the field a chance at a rare title without having to go through the Serb. Now, who’ll take advantage?
Earlier, former champion Stan Wawrinka got past Philipp Kohlschreiber in two. And Milos Raonic was also a winner.
But with Djokovic out, Roger Federer now becomes the favorite on the top half, though he’ll have JW Tsonga likely if he gets through Roberto Bautista Agut tomorrow.
And now Rafael Nadal has to be feeling even better. The 8-time champ opened his European clay season beating Aljaz Bedene without much fuss 6-3, 6-3. But tomorrow he faces rising youngster Dominic Thiem who beat Nadal earlier this year in Buenos Aires.
“I know that I have to improve for tomorrow. But I have confidence because I have been practicing very well these weeks. Let’s see if I am able to play the way that I was practicing. Tomorrow is going to be a tough match against a difficult opponent.
“I expect a tough match. Thiem is a great player, who is having a great season. Clay is probably the best surface for him. I expect a very difficult match. I know to have chances, I have to play very well. I need to do it and I going to try to do it.”
And I think I’ll lean ever so slightly with Rafa here. I hear there might be some wrist issues, but if Rafa’s OK I think he seizes the opportunity. The Djokovic loss has to really put up the antenna in the Nadal camp.
Andy Murray will lock up with Benoit Paire. Murray hasn’t been at his best of late, so it figures to be a tough match against the talented Frenchman.
Also falling out today was another finalist from a year ago, Thomas Berdych who was shocked by Damir Dzumhur and Richard Gasquet got bounced by countryman Lucas Pouille.
We’ve heard a lot about this next wave. Vesely now has his big win. Can Thiem get another? Pouille is playing well and Dzumhur is just 23.
Bottom line, this tournament just became wide open and the players know it. So who’s going to take advantage?
THURSDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III start 11:00 am
 B. Paire (FRA) vs  A. Murray (GBR)
 R. Nadal (ESP) vs  D. Thiem (AUT)
 R. Federer (SUI) vs  R. Bautista Agut (ESP)
[WC] L. Pouille (FRA) vs  J. Tsonga (FRA)
COURT DES PRINCES start 11:00 am
[Q] D. Dzumhur (BIH) vs  M. Raonic (CAN)
 G. Simon (FRA) vs  S. Wawrinka (SUI)
J. Vesely (CZE) vs  G. Monfils (FRA)
 D. Goffin (BEL) vs [LL] M. Granollers (ESP)
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