Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal win Monte Carlo openers

Oct 11, 2020; Paris, France; Novak Djokovic (SRB) in action during his match against Rafael Nadal (ESP) on day 15 at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time Rolex Monte Carlo Masters champion Rafael Nadal both won their opening matches in straight sets Wednesday in Monaco.

Playing for the first time since winning his ninth Australian Open title in February, Djokovic fired 20 winners in a 6-4, 6-2 victory against 19-year-old Jannik Sinner of Italy. The No. 1-ranked Serbian, a two-time winner of the event, improved his record in 2021 to 10-0.

“It feels great (to be back and) also playing in Monaco, where I reside,” Djokovic said after the one-hour, 34-minute match. “I have used this club as a training base for almost 15 years, so it feels like playing at home.

“It was a very good encounter. I thought it was a great first match (and) a big challenge for me. Jannik is in form. He played the final (in) Miami and has been playing well. I just hung in there today and managed to find the right shots and the right game at the right time.”

Djokovic next faces Britain’s Daniel Evans, who upset Miami Open champion and No. 13 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-1. Evans broke Hurkacz’s serve four times and won 90 percent (28 of 31) of his first-serve points.

Nadal looked sharp in his first action since losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece on Feb. 17 in the Australian Open quarterfinals. The third-seeded Spaniard struck 16 winners in a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis in 81 minutes, improving his record in Monaco to 72-5.

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Nadal won eight straight Monte Carlo titles from 2005-12 and three in a row from 2016-18.

“It was a solid match,” Nadal said. “Of course, a very positive result. He’s a good player on clay. … Nothing unbelievable, but nothing wrong. Just a solid match, a positive start. I think I did what I had to do today.”

Nadal’s next opponent will be No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who saved six of seven break points in a 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory against France’s Jeremy Chardy. Nadal is 13-1 in their head-to-head series.

In other action Wednesday involving seeded players, No. 5 Alexander Zverev of Germany won 6-3, 6-3 against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego. No. 6 Andrey Rublev of Russia eliminated Italy’s Salvatore Caruso 6-3, 6-2. Norway’s Casper Ruud upset No. 7 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-3. No. 9 Roberto Bautista-Agut won 6-3, 6-4 against Tommy Paul.

No. 11 David Gofin of Belgium defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-0. No. 12 Pablo Carreno-Busta of Spain won 6-2, 6-3 against Russian Karen Khachanov. No. 15 Fabio Fognini of Italy was a 6-3, 6-3 winner against Australia’s Jordan Thompson. No. 16 Cristian Garin of Chile defeated Australian John Millman 6-1, 6-4.

–Field Level Media