Nadal smitten in Monte Carlo

Carrie Guzman
April 17, 2018

Ranked 13th in the world after lengthy spells off the court with an elbow injury, Djokovic is training with Vajda for the first time since last year's Monte Carlo Masters.

"It's obvious that sometimes when you play a rally with 56 shots as I did with Novak (Djokovic) a couple of years ago in the final (US Open 2013), you can not expect a good point if you have 25 seconds on the next point", said the 16-time Grand Slam champion. He's more like a brother, a father. "If I have to play tomorrow, I got to be ready tonight". I'm lacking matches and a bit of confidence on court.

Here's a look at the main talking points ahead of the action on the red dirt of the Principality.

Djokovic moved far more freely and was calm and composed throughout, teaching his countryman a lesson to set up a second-round encounter with Borna Coric.

"It's not great but first match on clay, I'm expecting [a] little soreness", Nishikori said.

Djokovic won on his first match point when Lajovic swiped a forehand wide.

Djokovic is playing for the first time since splitting from coach Andre Agassi and gets his campaign underway against fellow Serb Dusan Lajovic yesterday. He may face fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the second round, but the sterner test is a potential tie against Nadal in the quarter-finals.

German Zverev converted six out of 14 break points against the world number 176 to prevail in two hours 34 minutes and set up a meeting with French seventh seed Lucas Pouille.

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Perhaps that will change in this telling? Gong Li will be playing a slightly different villain to what fans might be expecting. In addition, there will apparently be no musical numbers (despite the famed epicness of " I'll Make a Man Out of You ").

But he was close to his best against Berdych, despite making a slow start and calling for a medical timeout for his troublesome wrist.

Nadal, notoriously known for his dominant presence on the court, is renowned for taking his time between points, as evident in being docked a first serve during his successful French Cup triumph a year ago.

But tennis fans will be eyeing a fascinating quarter-final match-up between a revitalised Djokovic and the king of clay Nadal. "He's always there for me, knows me inside out".

However, there were shoots of life that suggested the 12-time Grand Slam champion may be on the road back to his best form.

The 28-year-old is unseeded as his ranking has slipped to 39 in the world due to injury.

Unseeded American Donaldson squared up to Gabas in unsavoury scenes when he insisted a Ramos-Vinolas serve was out during the second set of his 6-3 6-3 loss.

Donaldson later offered Gabas a sarcastic apology, saying: "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, I apologise".

Historically, conditions at the Monte Carlo Country Club are very slow, with just 72.5% of service games being held across the last three years at the venue, a figure which is 4.7% down on the ATP clay mean of 77.2%.

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