Novak Djokovic’s struggled continued Tuesday in Monte Carlo. The Serb who had won just five tournament matches since his Doha title to start the year, was nearly bounced in his clay opener today against Gilles Simon.
The Frenchman led with a break in the third and served for the match at 5-4. But with Simon spraying errors and missing volleys, Djokovic took the last three games to escape with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory.
“I thought I played a solid tennis for first set and a half,” Djokovic said after the 2-hour, 32-minute affair. “I was 6-3, 2-1 up, playing just enough to keep going. I felt like I had the control of the match. Then the match turned around. I started making some unforced errors. He made less unforced errors.
“Obviously, it was a very close battle that could have ended differently and would be, of course, deserved if he would have won the match. He was two, three points away from winning it. I got myself out of that tricky situation. That’s probably the most positive thing I take from today.”
Simon finished 5/6 on break chances while Djokovic was 6/16 winning just 63% on first serve. He is now 12-1 against the Frenchman who is just 7-7 on the year so far. But Simon once again played Djokovic tough.
“At 5-4, a lot of work was done to reach that stage. I was not as calm as I had to be. My shots were not as precise,” added Djokovic. “It was a tough moment. But when you play a match like that, sometimes one is up and the other one is down, and it changes. I played two bad points in a row, and the end came quickly. Of course, I would have preferred to do better at 5-4.”
Simon was alone in French misery. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was upset by countryman and qualifier Adrian Mannarino in three 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3.
“Today was a good match,” said Tsonga. “It was good tennis. There were some parts that were not so good. But as a whole, it was a good match. I would like to congratulate my opponent. He played a really good match. He’s one of the players who are really giving it their all on the Tour. He’s improving a lot. I really want to congratulate him. He played a very good match. He was better than me today”
Lucas Pouille did beat lone American entrant Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-4 and Jeremy Chardy knocked out recent winner Borna Coric. However, Benoit Paire was blasted by Tommy Haas 6-2, 6-3.
“There is no better, bigger satisfaction than when you go out there, competing and winning. In this case for me, it’s a big satisfaction,” the 39-year-old Haas said. “I’m very proud of the fact that I’m actually still out there, competing at this age. Due to setbacks and injuries I’ve had, I could have easily thrown in the towel a couple times. But I’m still out there trying to finish this game on my own terms. That’s what I’m doing. I’m proud of that.”
David Goffin and Pablo Cuevas also advanced.
On a big Wednesday schedule, the last 12 second round matches will be contested led by 9-time champion Rafael Nadal who meets Brit Kyle Edmund. World No. 1 Andy Murray returns to take on Gilles Muller and Stan Wawrinka battles Jiri Vesely.
“I am excited to be here. I started slow to adapt to the clay, hitting for 45 minutes, then one hour and one hour and 30 minutes for the first few days,” Nadal said over the weekend. “I did what I needed to avoid the risk for injuries. With more practise, I remind myself how to win the points, how to defend and how to move. It’s a process. Things are not that easy. It takes time. I decided to not play on clay in February this year so it’s a little different.”
Haas also faces Tomas Berdych, and Chardy collides with Marin Cilic.
WEDNESDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III start 11:00 am
 S. Wawrinka (SUI) vs J. Vesely (CZE)
 A. Murray (GBR) vs G. Muller (LUX)
K. Edmund (GBR) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
 G. Dimitrov (BUL) vs [Q] J. Struff (GER)
COURT DES PRINCES start 11:00 am
 T. Berdych (CZE) vs [PR] T. Haas (GER)
[WC] J. Chardy (FRA) vs  M. Cilic (CRO)
 L. Pouille (FRA) vs P. Lorenzi (ITA)
D. Schwartzman (ARG) vs  R. Bautista Agut (ESP)
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