Pain-Free Djokovic Dominates In Clay Debut; Thiem v Rublev Tues At Monte Carlo
by Staff | April 16th, 2018, 10:48 pm

After a disappointing March at Indian Wells and Miami, Novak Djokovic let go of star-studded coaching team in favor of his old confidant Marian Vajda. And so far so good after Djokovic destroyed his hapless countryman Duas Lajovic 6-0, 6-1 in the first round today at Monte Carlo.

“I thought it was good considering the amount of matches I’ve played in the last almost 12 months,” said Djokovic who resides in Monte Carlo. “I thought all in all, it was a great start of the tournament.”

More importantly, Djokovic says the elbow issues are behind him.

“After two years finally I can play without pain,” Djokovic said.

“The intervention was done right, and I came back already after five weeks on the court from the moment I had the surgery. That’s amazing,” Djokovic added. “I still obviously wasn’t ready game-wise, physically. So Indian Wells and Miami were really kind of a struggle on the court for me mentally. I know that I can play much better than that, but I couldn’t. I just wasn’t ready.”

He also is happy to be back with Vajda.

“It’s a fresh start I think for both of us. I missed him,” Djokovic said, before cracking a smile. “I have a feeling that he missed me or tennis or both.

We both enjoyed a lot the past 10 days of practice we had. He knows me better than any tennis coach I’ve worked with. He’s a friend. He’s someone I can share a lot of things with, whether it’s professional or private life. He’s always there for me,” Djokovic said. “He knows me inside-out. He knows what I need in order to get to the highest possible level of play. We could not ask for a better start.”

Djokovic could meet 10-time champ Rafael Nadal in the third round, but before then it’s the improving Borna Coric who rolled past Julien Benneteau 6-2, 6-3.

Kei Nishikori continued his comeback from injury dismissing Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

“It’s actually great to come back this tournament,” said Nishikori. “I haven’t got a lot of matches this year. I hope I can play more matches on clay. I always enjoy this Europe season.

“I feel like Tomas was struggling little bit in second, and third too. Nobody’s expecting I think 100% in the first couple of matches.”

Milos Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut were also winners. 2017 finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas ousted a testy Jared Donaldson, Stefanos Tsitipas upended Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4 and Andrey Rublev beat Robin Haase to set up a showdown tomorrow against Dominic Thiem.


COURT RAINIER III Starts At 11:00 Am
2nd Rd Andrey Rublev VS 5 Dominic Thiem
2nd Rd 7 Lucas Pouille VS Mischa Zverev
2nd Rd 4 Grigor Dimitrov VS (Q) Pierre Hugues Herbert
2nd Rd Gilles Muller VS 3 Alexander Zverev

COURT DES PRINCES Starts At 11:00 Am
1st Rd (WC) Gilles Simon VS 16 Adrian Mannarino
1st Rd 13 Fabio Fognini VS (Q) Ilya Ivashka
1st Rd (Q) Jeremy Chardy VS Richard Gasquet
2nd Rd (Q) Stefanos Tsitsipas VS 6 David Goffin

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23 Comments for Pain-Free Djokovic Dominates In Clay Debut; Thiem v Rublev Tues At Monte Carlo

AndyMira Says:

No staff….Nole very possibly will meet with CC specialist Thiem in 3rd…then very possibly with Rafa in 4th..

Margot Says:

Really good to see Nole so positive again. Yep, Marion you’ve been missed…a lot.

Giles Says:

I have to laugh. All those “ kind” words from joker to Vajda are somewhat meaningless in the light of how he treated Vajda eventually. He sacked Vajda without rhyme or reason just out of the blue. And now he’s patronising him? Pfffffft.

Van Persie Says:

hehe, looks like Rublev has other plans with Dominic. Just got the 1st set. should be a good match, am watching the score.
Just thought this morning, that Dominic might not have an easy one today.
Anyone watching this?

Humble Rafa Says:

Pepe is watching.

Van Persie Says:

haha, HR, Pepe has good taste for matches then ;)

Humble Rafa Says:

and he is not happy. He is going to do something about it.

Van Persie Says:

If you say so, HR :)

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Best news the tennis tour could get, especially entering clay season with no Fed, Murray or Stan.

For those of us who thought this was more mental than physical: voila.

Not that I think there was no physical aspect, I think the two domains fed each other. Speaking of the physical, how was his serve? Is it correct that he’s had to modify it to protect his elbow?

Novak has a ridiculous path ahead though: Coric, Thiem, then Rafa. Every win is big at this stage of regaining his groove. If he can just beat Coric, this will be a huge step forward. If he can beat Thiem, we’ll know he’s back to title contention.

RZ Says:

Good win for Thiem to pull through a tough one in his 1st match back from injury. The road won’t be getting easier in this tournament, but he’s got to be happy with that win.

Daniel Says:

In the mean time Schwatrz (Sean’s finalist pick), just got bageled firts set against fellow Arg Pella.

Thiem had to save MP, but Rublev is one of the worst R32 any one could get at this point.

Verdasco also won beating Cuevas, big win for him. This year he is reharsing a mini ressurgence.

Okiegal Says:

@Margot……..Here ya’ go girl………Gorgeous Grigor has hit the court! Herbert ain’t bad on the eyes either!

Daniel Says:

Dimi already down a set. Looks like his slump continues.

Schwartz won in the end

Margot Says:

OKiegal: hearing you loud and clear :) Hope GG wins, he’s going through a heck of a slump at the mo. and needs some confidence.
Nice interview with Rublev on ATP website. Apparently when he was about 14 he spent a Summer in Spain practising with Rafa in the mornings and on the beach for the rest of the time. Sounds pretty perfect holiday. Should’ve won really, was serving for the match and fluffed it. Couldn’t out hit the Thieminator but Was certainly outfoxing him a lot of the time.
Schworty won easily in the end, getting used to the conditions I guess.

RZ Says:

Does Dmitrov have any strong clay credentials? I don’t remember him ever doing too well on the surface. Maybe it’s less of a slump continuation and more of a surface issue?

RZ Says:

Pouille out to M. Zverev. Would have picked Pouille for that win.

Margot Says:

GG through in 3. Good. Dunno RZ since WTF he’s been a bit poor.
Zverev the elder is looking good, but Lucas is in a bit of a slump too….;) Paire went out as well but at least the French supporters had a lock with Crashquet v. Jeremy Ironside…;)
Goffin took the first in a tie but young Master Tsitsipas looks very useful on clay. One to watch.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Novak v Coric tomorrow.

Daniel Says:

Should Novak get through Coric, which I think he will now, he will be favorite against Thiem, who coming back from foot injury may not be quite there yet.

So, a potential, Nadal x Djoko QF looks promissisng now. I said it before, nothing like facing one of the top dogs for Novak to gauge his level and/or ignite his old fire back. No better test than Nadal on clay.

j-kath Says:

Daniel: A test too soon. In fact it ain’t a test of Rafa – it’s Djoko’s test. Rafa would win – it’s how far Nole can show his level of recovery.

Daniel Says:

Yeah J-K, it would be Djoko’s test.

j-kath Says:

You’re a fair guy Daniel. Good to have you around.

Mike Says:

Certainly this match against his fellow Serb showed that he has put in plenty of shot making practice. But it really wasn’t much of a test for Nole.

The true test really comes in the more physical matches that lay ahead. Players like Coric, Thiem and Nadal will expose Djokovic’s level of cardio-vascular endurance. It is when Nole experiences oxygen debt from successive long rallies that the errors have been flowing.

Top story: Djokovic Returns to ATP Play This Week In Tel Aviv; Sinner In Sofia, Ruud In Seoul