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Novak Djokovic Cruises In Rolex ATP Monte-Carlo Tennis Open Return

Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia during their first round match at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, 16 April 2018. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER



Strain, pain and parting stalled the start of Novak Djokovic’s season.

Reuniting with coach Marian Vajda, Djokovic delivered restoration day dominance in his Monte-Carlo homecoming today.

Playing deep crosscourt combinations, Djokovic dismantled countryman Dusan Lajovic, 6-0, 6-1, rolling into the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters second round.

A ruthless Djokovic commanded the center of the court, reeling off seven straight games to start and breaking serve five times in a 56-minute rout of his Davis Cup teammate and sometime practice partner.

When Lajovic’s final backhand missed the mark, Djokovic thrust his arms in the air looking like a man relieved and happy to be back home.

You can understand his reaction.

It is Djokovic’s first win since he swept Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the Australian Open third round in January and his first Masters 1000 victory since destroyed Dominic Thiem, 6-1, 6-0, in the Rome semifinals last May.

The two-time Monte-Carlo champion advanced to a second-round match with Borna Coric, who dispatched Julien Benneteau, 6-2, 6-3.

The 21-year-old Croatian, who raised his record to 15-6, was on hand in the crowd alongside manager Ivan Ljubicic watching Djokovic’s return.

They saw a former No. 1 who looked more eager and played with more clarity and control then he showed bombing out of both Indian Wells and Miami in opening-round exits last month.

Bursting out of the blocks quickly, Djokovic reeled off 12 of the first 15 points wrapping a pair of holds around a break for 3-0.

Comfortable on a court where he often practices, Djokovic carved Lajovic up with crosscourt combinations and rarely looked stressed in the opening set.

The one-handed backhand is Lajovic’s most stable shot, but he couldn’t gain traction in backhand-to-backhand exchanges with Djokovic and his forehand suffered through unruly spurts.

The younger Serbian scattered an inside-out forehand as Djokovic broke again in the fourth game.

The Djokovic serve was shaky at times in successive second-round exits in Indian Wells and Miami last month. Djokovic, who underwent a “small medical intervention” on his cranky right elbow in February, has worked to streamline his service motion in an effort to reduce stress on his elbow.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion buzzed through 12 of his first 15 points on serve breezing to a 5-0 lead in his first match since splitting from coaches Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek earlier this month.

A sharp-angled backhand crosscourt set up a forehand drive down the line for set points. Djokovic drilled a return down the line dispensing a bagel in 22 minutes.

By the early stages of the second set, Lajovic’s canary-colored Fila cap looked slightly askew as if pushed sideways by Djokovic’s drives. Lajovic swooped in and snapped off a smash snapping a seven game slide to finally get on the board at 1-all.

Djokovic dodged a break point in the third game moving forward to knock off a volley and eventually holding.

The oppressive court coverage of his former Davis Cup teammate combined with his struggles to keep the ball between the lines created issues for Lajovic, who sprayed another backhand falling behind 1-3.

Encouraging signs from Djokovic today were his decisiveness in baseline rallies, willingness to close at net and the fact his trademark two-handed backhand, which failed him during the Sunshine Double, was sharp throughout much of this match.

Then again, Lajovic offered little resistance. Djokovic will have a much better gauge of where his game is at against Coric, the player whose style the 30-time Masters champion once said reminds him of his younger self.

The 30-year-old Djokovic improved to 31-9 lifetime in Monte-Carlo, including his 2013 and 2015 title runs.

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