Novak Djokovic defeats Gael Monfils to advance to the second round of the Madrid Open

Novak Djokovic reacts to his media coverage in February

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Novak Djokovic took advantage of the inconsistent play of Gael Monfils to defeat the Frenchman and advance to the Round of 16 at the Madrid Open. The World No. 1 latched on aplenty of unforced errors by the mercurial Monfils to emerge triumphant with a 6-3 6-2 win. 

The first set began with both men holding serve through their first two games before a period of rain caused a delay in proceedings. Monfils struggled to return to speed, and Djokovic pounced to burst into a 5-2 lead after breaking the 35-year-old.

Djokovic held serve to claim the first set 6-3 in 47 minutes, and the Serbian superstar continued to pressure Monfils by breaking him early in the second set. Monfils attempted to fight back in the fourth game and threatened to hit back on the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s serve, but Djokovic held on to secure the game on deuce. 

The two men put on a show for the Spanish crowd with several all-star calibre points as the duo exchanged trick shots to send the other fling around the court. However, Monfils ultimately could not overcome his littany of unforced errors, particularly on the forehand.

Djokovic then easily broke Monfils in the sixth game of the second set to take command. The World No. 1 expertly put the Frenchman to the sword as he dictated the game and struck several sensational backhand winners to consolidate the break and move 5-2 up. 

From then, it appeared to be a mere formality – but Monfils had other ideas. He delivered several stunning shots to earn his first break point of the match before firing a terrific backhand to deny a Djokovic smash.

The second break point came to nothing after a beatiful Djokovic backhand was struck up the line, and he quickly earned match point soon after. He then defeated Monfils for an 18th successive time with a fierce serve that the Frenchman could not return. 

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Following his historic win over Monfils, it is now mathematically impossible for Djokovic to lose his spot atop the world rankings before May 16 2022.

After the win, Djokovic expressed dismay at the mental and physical toll the start to 2022 has had on him as he eyes a record-tying 21st Grand Slam title. The Serb cited the controversial events in Australia – where he was denied entry to the country due to his vaccination status – as a chief reason for his struggles.

However, the 34-year-old showed flashes of his dominant best as he moved through the motions to defeat Monfils. Djokovic will face either 14th seed Denis Shapovalov or wild card Andy Murray in the last-16. 

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