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Djokovic tops Monfils in Madrid in his ‘best’ match of year

MADRID (AP) – Novak Djokovic feels like the hard work is starting to pay off.

Trying to regain his best form after a slow start to the season, Djokovic looked sharp in his opener at the Madrid Open on Tuesday, defeating Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 to advance to a third-round match against Andy Murray.

“I would probably rate it as the best performance of the year. I felt very good on the court,” the top-ranked Djokovic said after saving all five break points he faced and converting the three he had against the 21st-ranked Frenchman.

It was the Serb’s 18th straight win over Monfils. The match was interrupted at 2-2 in the first set as rain forced the roof on centre court to be closed.

“Just generally very, very good performance,” he said. “I’m very pleased, considering, you know, that up to today I was not playing my best tennis in the few tournaments that I played this year and still kind of finding my rhythm, finding my groove.”

Djokovic arrived in Madrid with a 5-3 record in the three tournaments he played. He had needed three sets in each of his last three victories this season, all in Serbia before losing the final there to Andrey Rublev.

“I had a week, 10 days to get ready for this match, and for this tournament,” he said. “I have done everything I possibly can to build my fitness and also improve on all aspects of the game, on the court.”

Djokovic played in only one hard-court tournament after having not been allowed to participate in the Australian Open because of his vaccination status. He lost to Jiri Vesely in the Dubai quarterfinals.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball during a match at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain. PHOTO: AP
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