Novak Djokovic started his clay-court tennis season in style on Monday at the Monte Carlo Masters, as he hammered fellow Serb Dusan Lajovic 6-0, 6-1.
Djokovic began at a blistering pace, and it quickly became apparent Lajovic was going to struggle to cope with the 12-time Grand Slam champion. Next up for Djokovic is a meeting with Borna Coric in the second round, as the Croatian beat Julien Benneteau on Monday.
In the most intriguing match on Monday, Kei Nishikori recovered from a set down to beat Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Seeded players Milos Raonic (14th) and Albert Ramos Vinolas (15th) also advanced after beating wild card Lucas Catarina and Jared Donaldson, respectively.
Aljaz Bedene and Gilles Muller trumped respective first-round foes Mirza Basic and Florian Mayer in straight sets to head through.
Read on for the latest results from Monte Carlo and a closer look at how Djokovic got his tournament up and running in style.
Selected Monday Results
(9) Novak Djokovic bt. Dusan Lajovic, 6-0, 6-1
(11) Roberto Bautista Agut bt. Peter Gojowczyk, 6-4, 6-3
Kei Nishikori bt. (12) Tomas Berdych, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
(14) Milos Raonic bt. Lucas Catarina, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3
(15) Albert Ramos Vinolas bt. Jared Donaldson, 6-3, 6-3
Selected Tuesday Matches
(5) Dominic Thiem vs. Andrey Rublev
(7) Lucas Pouille vs. Mischa Zverev
(10) Diego Schwartzman vs. Guido Pella
(13) Fabio Fognini vs. Ilya Ivashka
For the results and schedule in full, visit the competition website.
Djokovic Impresses in Monte Carlo
Often with Djokovic, it's easy to tell what type of match he's going to play based on how he starts. For Lajovic, the opening exchanges were ominous.
After serving well in his opening game, Djokovic latched on to a couple of loose shots from his compatriot and was ruthless. Soon the two-time Monte Carlo champion raced out to a 4-0 lead.
As the Live Tennis Twitter account noted, the first four games had seen Djokovic find some brilliant form:
He didn't take his foot off the accelerator either, as the 30-year-old served a bagel to his compatriot. It was a long way back for Lajovic, who was struggling to find any momentum.
Lajovic did eventually get on the board at the start of the second set and had a chance to go 2-1 up with a break point. But Djokovic was able to step up his game when needed, saving it and breaking in the fourth game to tighten his grip on the match.
In the end, Djokovic rattled off the rest of the games with minimal fuss. Per tennis journalist Carole Bouchard, there was interest aplenty in how Djokovic was getting on:
Prior to Djokovic coming on court, spectators were treated to a brilliant showdown between Berdych and Nishikori.
The former, seeded 12th, was stronger in the opening set, using his superior power and serving prowess to edge the Japanese. Eventually, Berdych outlasted Nishikori to take the opener 6-4.
From there, Nishikori, who has struggled for form and fitness in 2018, dug deep to find something extra. In the second stanza, he was the better player, grinding down Berdych to get back on level terms.
Then, late in the match, the extra energy and inventiveness in Nishikori's play left Berdych flummoxed.
As relayed by journalist Jose Morgado, the 28-year-old was a comfortable winner in the end:
Elsewhere, Spanish duo Roberto Bautista Agut and Albert Ramos Vinolas were both impressive in two-set wins over Peter Gojowczyk and Jared Donaldson, respectively.
Raonic also made his clay season debut and responded after a disastrous first set to beat Catarina, Monaco's best hope for a homegrown winner. Tennis writer Stephanie Myles told of just how poor the Canadian was in his opening nine games:
He rooted out his errors and failed to give up any more breaks of serve in the closing two sets, having seemingly found his footing at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and he'll face Damir Dzumhur or Marco Cecchinato in the next round.
On Wednesday, Rafael Nadal, a 10-time champion of this event, will get his tournament under way against Bedene, who beat Basic 6-4, 7-6 (3) in just under 90 minutes.
Bedene breezed the first set but was made to work for the second as he recovered from a tiebreak wobble to win five successive points and progress in efficient fashion.
Qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert also glanced a tiebreak of his own en route to a 7-6 (7), 6-4 win over Italian Paolo Lorenzi, and his reward is a second-round fixture opposite fourth-seed Grigor Dimitrov. Herbert won the Monte Carlo doubles title with Nicolas Mahut in 2016.
Germany's Mayer fell out after suffering a 7-5, 6-4 defeat to Luxembourg's Muller, and qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas kept his Monte Carlo dream alive with an assured 6-3, 6-4 win over Denis Shapovalov.