Djokovic Goes To 18-0 Against Monfils, Advances In Madrid

Novak Djokovic (photo: ATP Tour video)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 3, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

France’s Gaël Monfils faced a Sisyphean task of trying to find a way to beat World No. 1 Novak Djokovic when they met Tuesday afternoon in their second-round match at the Mutua Madrid Open. After all, the 35-year-old athletic Frenchman had never beaten Djokovic in 17 previous head-to-head meetings going back to 2005. Surprisingly, they had only met on clay once, at Roland Garros in 2006, which Djokovic won in straight sets.

“The guys I better than me, that is it,” the showman Monfils said Monday during a pre-tournament session with reporters. “Every match is an opportunity to win, I try to take some lessons. He can beat me [Tuesday] and maybe at Rome and then Roland Garros and then, maybe, I can beat him once.”

With Djokovic not appearing in top form – and just playing in his ninth match this season – one wondered if Tuesday could be Monfils’ best opportunity to finally get his first victory against the Serbian. After all, the slow surface on Manolo Santana Stadium would provide for extended rallies.

“I’m still finding the form,” Djokovic said earlier this week in press. “I’m not playing at the desired level. But I am getting there. It’s a process and I have to be patient and believe that I am on the right track, which I feel I am.”

As it happened, Djokovic converted break points in each set – he was 3 for 3 on the match – and they proved to be the difference as he improved to 18-0 against Monfils following his 6-3, 6-2 win in one hour and 27 minutes. It marked the first time in the Open Era that a player has gone 18-0 against a single opponent. Several others, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have gone 17-0 in matchups.

Djokovic saved all five break points he faced from the 21st-ranked Monfils – including two in the final game of the match. Although Monfils finished with 18 winners, he also committed 31 unforced errors and it turned out to be a thorough performance by Djokovic in winning the second-round match. He hit 11 winners and outpointed the Frenchman 64-47 to improve to 6-3 this season in just his fourth tournament of the year.

“I didn’t play so well in the two, three previous tournaments I played this year,” Djokovic said after the match, which incurred a slight rain delay at 2-all in the first set until the roof was closed and the court resurfaced. “I’m still finding my groove but I’m pleased with the way I played the right shots at the right time, and tactically.”

So, one might ask, just why has Djokovic always found a way to beat Monfils?

“I don’t have any explanation for that, I just try to approach it like any other match,” Djokovic said. “I guess his game is suitable to my game in terms of playing style. But we’ve had some very close matchups. The last time we played in Dubai he had match points, so that could have easily broken the record.

“I don’t think about that too much. For me mentally this is a very important win.”

By beating Monfils, Djokovic assured his position as World No. 1 going forward for at least another week. Injured Daniil Medvedev would have assumed the No. 1 ranking if Djokovic had lost to Monfils.

Next, Djokovic will face wild card Andy Murray of Great Britain, who beat No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, Tuesday evening on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium.

Rublev survives scare from Draper to reach third round

In Tuesday’s opening match on Manolo Santana Stadium, World No. 8 Andrey Rublev took on NextGen ATP British wild card Jack Draper, who came in looking to garner his first career Top 10 victory just two days after recording his first career tour-level win on clay.

The sixth-seeded Rublev, one of three players along with Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz who have won three ATP Tour titles this season, seemed ripe for an upset. In the opening set, the 121st-ranked Draper jumped to a 3-0 lead and won the set by playing pretty flawless tennis. The left-handed Draper served well and hit the ball with aggressive authority. However, as he learned the hard way, one set does not make a match.

While Rublev’s temperament got the best of him early on, the Russian finally took advantage of a couple of service breaks, each at 4-all, in the second and third sets. He consolidated both to pull out a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over the 20-year-old Draper, a winner of four ATP Challenger Tour titles this year, in two hours and 19 minutes.

The victory advanced Rublev to the third round. Next, he will face Wednesday’s winner between Great Britain’s Dan Evans, ranked 36th, and No. 17 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. The 19th-ranked Spaniard swept No. 42 Jenson Brooksby of the United States, 6-2, 6-2, in an hour and 23 minutes on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium, outpointing the American 63-41. He hit 20 winners to 12 unforced errors and converted six of 11 break points.

Around La Caja Mágica

•  World No. 9 and seventh seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain gave himself an early birthday present – he turns 19 on Thursday – with his 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 27 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia Tuesday night. It was Alcaraz’s first win since reaching the Top 10 and he outpointed his opponent 66-48 in back of hitting 17 winners, while Basilashvili committed 34 unforced errors.

• No. 12 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland rallied from losing a 19-minute second-set tie-break, in which he was unable to capitalize on three match points, to beat 81st-ranked qualifier Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, 7-5, 6-7 (11), 6-3, in two hours and 54 minutes. Hurkacz, who is 7-0 in first-round matches this season, hit 14 aces and 50 winners, and outpointed Dellien 119-110 to advance to the second round against No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

• Croatia’s Marin Cilic struck 18 aces and struck 53 winners during his 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Millennium Estoril Open semifinalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain. The 24th-ranked Cilic outpointed No. 43 Ramos-Vinolas 93-84. Next, Cilic will face World No. 3 and second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany.

• No. 32 Miormir Kecmanovic of Serbia advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 33 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in an hour and 16 minutes. Kecmanovic, who won 84 percent of his first-serve points, hit 17 winners, made zero unforced errors and did not face any break points en route to his win. He withstood 19 aces and 39 aces from Bublik and outpointed his opponent 76-58. The victory improved Kecmanovic’s record to 23-9 this season.

• Other winners: No. 39 Cristian Garin of Chile upset Millennium Estoril Open finalist Frances Tiafoe of the United States, 6-1, 6-3, in an hour; No. 31 Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands rallied to defeat No. 16 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (1), 6-3; and No. 30 Sebastian Korda beat No. 15 seed Reilly Opelka, 6-3, 7-5, in an all-American clash.

Sorribes Tormo, lone Spaniard remaining in women’s draw, keeps winning

Sara Sorribes Tormo is making the most of her sixth main-draw appearance in Madrid this year. She’s already beaten No. 13 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, then upset former World No. 1 Naomi Osaka for the second time in four tries, 6-2, 6-1, Sunday evening.

Tuesday afternoon on Manolo Santana Stadium, Sorribes Tormo reached her fourth WTA quarterfinal of the season with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory over No. 23 Daria Kasatkina of Russia that lasted two hours and 30 minutes.

An emotional Sorribes Tormo became just the fourth Spanish woman to make it to the last eight in Madrid, a tournament that has always been kinder to Spanish men over the years. After both World No. 2 Paula Badosa and No. 9 Garbiñe Muguruza went down in the second round, it’s been Sorribes Tormo carrying the hopes of Spaniards in the women’s draw.

Points were even at 89 and both Sorribes Tormo and Kasatkina broke the other’s serve nine times.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I’m super, super happy right now,” Sorribes Tormo said during an on-court interview. “I can’t thank everyone. I’m really, really happy.”

Next, Sorribes Tormo will play No. 12 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States. The 14th-ranked American defeated No. 111 Bianca Andreescu of Canada, 7-5, 6-1, in one hour and 51 minutes on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium. She converted four of 20 break points and outpointed Andreescu 90-66. Despite the loss, Andreescu will return to the Top 100 next week after reaching the round of 16 in Madrid.

Also advancing to the quarterfinal round was No. 35 Jil Teichman of Switzerland, who upset No. 16 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 6-1. She will face No. 37 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, who beat her third straight Grand Slam champion, No. 9 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, in her Madrid debut.

Kalinina previous defeated 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens of the United States in the first round and followed up with a win against former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain to reach her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal. Against Raducanu, Kalinina hit 30 winners to only 14 unforced errors and broke Raducanu’s serve five times during the two-hour and 19-minute match on Manolo Santana Stadium Tuesday evening. It was Kalinina’s second straight victory over a Top 15 opponent.

Tuesday’s Mutua Madrid Open ATP results

Tuesday’s Mutua Madrid Open WTA results

Wednesday’s Mutua Madrid Open order of play

By the numbers

Novak Djokovic is in his record-extending 368th week ranked World No. 1. By beating Monfils he will remain No. 1 next week in the ATP Rankings.

“Quotable …”

“It’s two parties. Some people were telling me, ‘It’s Eid, you have to win today.’ I was trying my best.”

– World No. 10 and eighth seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who beat Belinda Bencic Monday to reach the quarterfinals. Her victory took place on Eid-al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that celebrates the end