Novak Djokovic was beaten by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as the world number one’s return to the ATP Tour fell flat at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Playing for the first time since February after skipping the US hard-court swing due to ongoing Covid-19 vaccination issues, Djokovic was beaten 6-3 6-7 (5) 6-1 in just under three hours.
The Serb faced 20 break points and was broken on no fewer than nine occasions as the world number 46 recovered from a major setback in the second set to score the best win of his career.
Djokovic is clearly in need of more match practice if he is to end a torrid year – which saw him deported prior to the Australian Open in January – by improving on his 20 grand slam titles.
A two-time winner in Monte Carlo, Djokovic was staring at a swift defeat when he lost the first set and was then immediately broken at the start of the second.
The Spaniard showed his inexperience with a needless dive at the start of the seventh game of the set, prompting injury fears and enabling Djokovic to reel off 10 points in a row as he broke back to love to wrest the upper-hand.
The momentum swung back in Davidovich Fokina’s direction when Djokovic, serving for the set, conjured four unforced errors to allow his opponent to break back and ultimately force a tie-break.
But having come back from 4-2 down to win the breaker, Djokovic’s recent inactivity told as he was broken three more times in a one-sided deciding set.
“This win is so special for me because I grew up watching Nole and I’m a big fan of his,” the Spaniard said in his on-court interview.
“I look at him every tournament, every match. Here in Monte Carlo, full of people, against the number one, I enjoyed every moment and I’m so happy.”
Britain’s Dan Evans reached the second round after securing a 6-0 7-6 (4) win over Benjamin Bonzi of France.
Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas brushed aside Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-0 and Grigor Dimitrov came from behind to defeat Dusan Lajovic 4-6 6-3 6-2, both in the round of 32.
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