Novak Djokovic sent out a warning to his ATP World Tour rivals on Monday in his first match since reuniting with Marian Vajda, his coach from June 2006 to May 2017.
Two-time former champion Djokovic didn’t let national sentiment, or even friendship, get in the way of a 6-0, 6-1 victory over fellow Serbian Dusan Lajovic at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. His fourth match win of the year came in 57 minutes.
“I thought it was good considering the amount of matches I’ve played in the last almost 12 months,” said Djokovic. “I mean, I’ve played probably six, seven matches in total since Wimbledon last year… I thought I played well. I thought I started the tournament well. It’s my first match on clay. It’s against a very good friend of mine, who obviously hasn’t played at his best and was making a lot of mistakes.”
The ninth seed, who resides in a seafront Monte-Carlo apartment, required just 22 minutes to wrap up the opener — finishing with a forehand winner down the line past qualifier Lajovic. The capacity 10,200-strong crowd were delighted when Lajovic won his first game for 1-1, with a smash winner, in a competitive second set. Djokovic saved break points at 1-1, 30/40 and at 3/1, 30/40.
The 30-year-old will now prepare to face Croatia’s Borna Coric, who broke a three-match losing streak at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in beating 36-year-old Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-2, 6-3 in 65 minutes.
Coric reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final at the BNP Paribas Open (l. to Federer) last month. “He’s very good in the Masters 1000s now,” said Benneteau, when asked about Coric. “He’s very complete and he serves very well. Today he was the best.”
Djokovic, who could potentially meet top seed and 10-time champion Rafael Nadal in the third round, has a 31-9 record at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. He lifted the trophy on Court Rainier III in 2013 (d. Nadal) and 2015 (d. Berdych).
Elsewhere, #NextGenATP Russian Andrey Rublev denied Dutchman Robin Haase the 200th match win of his career early in the afternoon with a 7-6(7), 2-6, 7-5 win over two hours and 30 minutes. Rublev saved four match points in the first set – one at 5-6, 30/40, then from 4/6 and 6/7 in the tie-break. The 20-year-old broke 2012 quarter-finalist Haase in a 20-point game and will next challenge fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem.