Novak Djokovic began his title defense at the Monte-Carlo Masters with a convincing 6-1, 6-0 victory over qualifier Albert Montanes.
The second-seeded Serbian star enjoyed a couple weeks off following back-to-back tournament triumphs in Miami and Indian Wells. After a bye in the opening round, he once again put his impressive form on display. He broke in Montanes' second service game and never looked back.
Although it may seem like just another event as the players begin tuning up for the French Open, it holds a special importance for Djokovic. The Associated Press (via ESPN) passed along comments from him before the tournament to illustrate that:
Winning this title last year in the final against Nadal was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I really love playing in this tournament. My family comes in big numbers during this week so it makes me feel very comfortable, and at home.
For a player with over 40 career titles, including six on the Grand Slam stage, to call winning in Monte Carlo a highlight of his career shows you the meaning of this tournament to him. He certainly played with an intensity to match those remarks as he quickly dispatched his Spanish counterpart.
Montanes was coming off an upset of Benoit Paire in the first round. Paire, who's currently ranked 34th in the world, is fighting to become one of the seeded players during the upcoming wave of major tournaments. It took a strong showing from the Spaniard to knock him out in three sets.
Djokovic quickly showed he had no interest in becoming Montanes' second straight upset victim. He was absolutely dominant on serve and had little trouble earning breaks in what quickly developed into a major mismatch.
TennisTV provided the completely one-sided stats from the first set:
Things got even worse for Montanes in the second set. Djokovic powered him off the court with a shot-making display the underdog simply couldn't match. Montanes won just a single point off the second seed's serve in three return games.
Djokovic proceeded to sweep the second set and advanced without even breaking much of a sweat. The match was over in 45 minutes.
As Steph Trudel noted, most of the points Montanes did win came courtesy of Djokovic unforced errors:
Novak Djokovic defeats Albert Montanes 6-1 6-0 in 45 minutes. Montanes won 23 points (thanks to Djokovic's 16 unforced errors)— Steph Trudel (@TrudelSteph) April 15, 2014
It marked the sixth straight victory over Djokovic over Montanes without a loss. He has dropped only one set in those matches.
Who's your pick to win the event?
Although a potential clash with Rafael Nadal in the final is certainly the most likely scenario, both players have work to do before that can become reality. For Djokovic, it will be a little while before he finds out his third-round opponent.
Kevin Anderson and Gael Monfils are squaring off in a high-profile match in the first round. The winner will go on the play lucky loser Pablo Carreno Busta, who edged Ivan Dodig to advance, and then Djokovic will be waiting in the third round.
Based on the way Djokovic played today, there's nobody in that section of the draw capable of taking him down. The first serious challenge is probably going to come from Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.
Above all else, Djokovic put all of his fellow contenders on notice with a sublime outing as he looks to defend his title.