Novak Djokovic thrashes Dusan Lajovic in Monte Carlo opener

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

A stunning 10th title in Monte-Carlo past year was one of Nadal's key stepping-stones back to No1. Borna Coric, at a career-high 28, made the semis of Indian Wells and quarters in Miami; Andrey Rublev won on Umag's clay last summer, was US Open quarter-finalist, the Doha runner-up, and is now into the main draw on clay for the first time; and Djokovic's first seed is No5 seed Dominic Thiem, who has seven clay titles, and was runner-up to Nadal in Barcelona and Madrid previous year. He said that a couple of days ago - and I thought he would play Roland Garros. He was genuinely wanting to help and to give me advice and to share his experience with me. I saw this tournament on the TV before I started playing here and always wanted to do well. I'm enjoying being here in Monte Carlo in an event that always brings me to the best feelings possible.

"Back then, it was my first year on the tour, no one knew me, I was the new guy".

The 16-time Grand Slam champion is bidding for an incredible 11th title in Monaco and his third in a row, but knows that anything less than that would see him lose the number-one spot to the absent Federer.

If Nadal is to extend his record tally of Monte Carlo crowns, he will have to do it the hard way after being handed a difficult draw.

The former world No 1 hammered his compatriot Dusan Lajovic 6-0 6-1 in the first round, cutting a starkly contrasting figure to the one who lost his opening matches at last month's ATP Masters level events at Indian Wells and Miami. That injury had ruled him out of last year's U.S. Open and this year's Australian Open. Moya, who was initially apprehensive about Nadal rushing back to action believes the ten-time French Open winner's presence takes away the pressure from the rest of the players. "I think it needs to be slightly balanced but I think it can be good for tennis to have something like that".

The glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo is the setting for this week's action on the ATP Tour, with a prize fund of nearly €5m a suitable reward for the players good enough to make the 56-man draw.

The Australian was beaten 7-5 6-4 by the world number 40, who advanced to the last 32 courtesy of a solitary break in either set. "But I'm happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes)".

Djokovic, a two-time victor at Monte Carlo, dropped just eight points as he wrapped up the first set with his opponent well off the pace.

It was the first time the Serb, because of the drop in his ranking, failed to get a first-round bye in Monte Carlo since his first appearance in 2006.

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