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Djokovic makes fast start in Monte-Carlo


Novak Djokovic is up & running on the European clay.

The Serbian moved past Roman Safiullin 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to reach the third round in the Principality for the 14th time.

Competing in his first match as the oldest World No. 1 in the history of the PIF ATP Rankings, the 36-year-old Djokovic produced a ruthless performance against Safiullin. He hit with consistency off both wings and forced Safiullin into errors with his depth of shot, advancing after 71 minutes.

“I am very pleased,” Djokovic said. “I think even the games that I lost I had break points in those games. It is a really great first match at the start of the clay season. It is always been a little bit up and down. Last year as well I started off well at this tournament and the second match I lost, so I hope to maintain this rhythm. I have a day tomorrow of training and I hope to come out in a few days time with the same attitude and quality of tennis.”

The top seed arrives in Monte-Carlo having not won a title this season, with his best result a semi-final run at the Australian Open. Having failed to advance beyond the quarter-finals in his seven previous appearances in the Principality, Djokovic will hope this is the week he can return to top form and change that record.

The 98-time tour-level titlist is a two-time Monte-Carlo champion, triumphing in 2013 and 2015. He will meet #NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils or Lorenzo Musetti in the third round. The Italian Musetti upset Djokovic in Monte-Carlo at the same stage last season.

Competing in heavy conditions after the morning rain, Djokovic quickly adjusted. He raced through the first four games to lead 4-0, sealing the opening set in 33 minutes.

Djokovic continued to look in control in the second set, ending the match with a 16-9 winner to unforced error count.

At 36, Djokovic became the oldest No. 1 in the history of the PIF ATP Rankings.

“It is nice, it is great,” Djokovic said on becoming the oldest No. 1 in history. “I met Bopanna yesterday, who is the oldest doubles No. 1 in history. He said we had a combined age of 80, but he does contribute to the 80 more than I do. But it is fun. To still be able to compete at the highest level and being No. 1 in the world at the age of 37 is not something honestly dreaming of, planning on or thinking it would become reality. But all the work and dedication to the sport and my body, staying fit is paying off. I am able to maintain the longevity and extend the career for years and years.”

In other action, Djokovic’s countryman Miomir Kecmanovic ended Matteo Berrettini’s winning run. Kecmanovic dispatched the Marrakech champion Berrettini 6-3, 6-1 in 75 minutes to set a third-round clash against Grigor Dimitrov.

Tomas Martin Etcheverry also advanced. The Argentine beat Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 7-5 and will next play two-time champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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