Novak Djokovic’s clay season on Tuesday got off to a sluggish start at the Monte-Carlo Masters as the world No. 2 struggled past Gilles Simon 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
The Serb, who has suffered a disjointed year with poor form and injury, spent around two-and-a-half hours toiling to get through.
He was broken at 4-4 in the final set, but then reeled off three straight games to snatch victory in the second-round encounter.
“It was a very difficult match, with many changes of momentum,” said the second seed, who won the Monte Carlo event in 2013 and 2015. “It was very tiring for me, the first clay of the season.
Djokovic, who has won only one tournament so far this season — the Qatar ExxonMobil Open at the start of January — twice recovered in the third set from breaks down.
He finally prevailed against Simon, ranked 32 in the world, when the Frenchman fired long on a return.
Djokovic last played on the ATP Tour more than a month ago — although he did emerge to lead a Serbian Davis Cup win this month — and sat out the Miami Open last month with an elbow injury.
Qualifier Adrian Mannarino stunned fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, eliminating the seventh seed 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-3 as new father Tsonga played for the first time in more than a month.
Tommy Haas ignored his 39 years to post a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Benoit Paire as the German’s goodbye tour continues. Haas last played in Monte Carlo well over a decade ago.
In other first-round matches, French 11th seed Lucas Pouille beat Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-4 while Gilles Muller stopped Spain’s Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-2.
German Jan-Lennard Struff eliminated promising Norwegian wild-card Christian Ruud 6-4, 6-4.
Georgian tennis star Nikoloz Basilashvili, ranked 27th in the world, was on Sunday charged with physically assaulting his ex-wife, prosecutors said. A court in Tbilisi charged Basilashvili with perpetrating “violence against a family member committed in the presence of a minor,” before releasing him on US$30,000 bail, prosecutor Natia Guruli said. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty. Basilashvili’s ex-wife, Neka Dorokashvili, on Sunday told Mtavari TV that Basilashvili “physically assaulted” her on Friday in the presence of their five-year-old son. Basilashvili denied the charges, his lawyer Irma Chkadua said. The 28-year-old won his second ATP Tour title at the China
‘LIKE A SCHOOL TEAM’: The coach was furious Leipzig conceded a goal from a corner with only nine minutes gone when Hertha’s Marko Grujic fired home unmarked Julian Nagelsmann on Wednesday slammed 10-man RB Leipzig for defending like “a school team” in their 2-2 draw at home to Hertha BSC which cost them the chance to go second in the Bundesliga. Hertha forward Krzysztof Piatek equalized with a late penalty to seal the draw and save the blushes of goalkeeper Rune Jarstein, who had made a blunder for Leipzig’s second goal. However, Nagelsmann was furious that Leipzig conceded a weak goal from a corner with only nine minutes gone when Hertha midfielder Marko Grujic, on loan from Liverpool, fired home unmarked. “We started well, but fell behind because we defend
Tennis world No. 7 Alexander Zverev is to join Novak Djokovic’s Balkan tournament next month, boosting the cast of top players to descend on Belgrade as the professional season is frozen by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The phenomenal news I want to announce today is that Sasa Zverev, Alexander Zverev, will come to Belgrade,” Djokovic told a news conference in the Serbian capital on Monday. The German is to join world No. 3 Dominic Thiem and 19th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov in Belgrade on June 13 and 14 for the first stop of the Adria Tour. “Three of the world’s greatest tennis stars. I’m really very
Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova on Monday said that she would prefer that Grand Slams did not take place instead of playing them behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking on the eve of her court return in an all-Czech tournament, the 30-year-old echoed the thoughts of Roger Federer, who last week said that he would be against the idea of an empty Roland Garros or Flushing Meadows. “I have my age and of course I would like to play another Grand Slam, but if it’s like this, I’d rather cancel them,” Kvitova said. “Playing a Grand Slam is the