The two favourites to win this year’s Monte-Carlo Masters, Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, both progressed with ease on Tuesday.
Tuesday was the day that Monaco’s tennis festival truly got underway. The big names were in action, and the large crowds accompanied them.
Novak Djokovic beats Russian Ivan Gakhov
Djokovic has already improved on last season’s performance at the Monte-Carlo Masters. The Serbian suffered a first-round exit at the hands of eventual finalist Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina.
There were no such difficulties on centre court on Tuesday. Djokovic had to contend with difficult swirling winds in the first set against Gakhov. However, the Monaco resident prevailed at the end of a tight tiebreak (7-6).
Once in the ascendancy, Djokovic was ruthless. He wrapped up the second set in lightning-quick time, taking his opportunities to break when they came to progress to the second round (7-6, 6-2).
Benjamin Bonzi reitres hurt
Arguably Djokovic’s main rival in this year’s competition, Tsitsipas, had an even easier time on centre-court. As the Spring sun set on the stands, and the breeze off the Mediterranean picked up, temperatures dropped significantly, but fans didn’t have to endure them for long.
Benjamin Bonzi was broken in his first game, and the signs were ominous. Just minutes later, the Frenchman was forced into a medical timeout, before being broken again. Bonzi wasn’t able to continue, and Tsitsipas, who is looking for a third consecutive victory on the Monte-Carlo clay, exerted little energy as he progressed into the next round after just five games (4-1).
Valentin Vacherot latest Monégasque to exit
Earlier in the day, there was yet more Monégasque misery on Court Two of the Monte-Carlo Country Club (MCCC) on Wednesday. Valentin Vacherot, Monaco’s highest-ranked player, and who was the recipient of one of the much-coveted wildcards, succumbed in straight sets against Italian Luca Nardi.
Despite being in Monaco, there was no question of receiving any home-court advantage, with Italian fans packing the stands of the MCCC. Those that made the short trip across the border and into Monaco were in good voice, as their man applied the pressure on Vacherot early on.
Vacherot’s serve was frequently under threat, but when he was broken in the seventh, he immediately broke back. However, Nardi made the crucial break at the end of the first set to edge it (5-7).
A similar fate befell the Monégasque in the second set. Nardi made the initial break, but was pegged back. However, Vacherot, ranked 357th in the world had no response to his 159th-ranked opponent, who could count on the raucous support of his compatriots. Nardi ultimately prevailed (5-7, 5-7).
“It was great to play on Court Two, on which I’ve had success in the Davis Cup, in front of my family, my friends and coaches. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job done on the court. It was really a great experience, even if I didn’t have a lot of rhythm. I gave everything,” said Vacherot post-defeat.
Romain Arneodo, who competes against a team composed of Alexander Zverev in the doubles on Wednesday, is Monaco’s last hope of success in this year’s Monte-Carlo Masters.
Photo of Novak Djokovic by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life.