Novak Djokovic off to strong start at Monte Carlo

MONTE CARLO: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia cruised past Russia's Roman Safiullin 6-1, 6-2 in just 70 minutes in his first match of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday in Monaco.

The 36-year-old Djokovic, who won the Monte Carlo Masters in 2013 and 2015, became the oldest player to hold the No. 1 ATP ranking this week, surpassing Roger Federer.

He wasn't showing his age against Safiullin. Djokovic won 28 of his 34 service points, including 11 of 12 on his second serve, and never faced break point. Safiullin did all he could to stay in the match, saving 14 of 19 break points.

"It is a really great first match at the start of the clay season," Djokovic said.

"It has always been a little bit up and down. Last year as well, I started off well at this tournament and the second match I lost, so I hope to maintain this rhythm. I have a day tomorrow of training, and I hope to come out in a few days' time with the same attitude and quality of tennis."

Djokovic will face Italy's Lorenzo Musetti in the Round of 16. Musetti was responsible for Djokovic's early exit at Monte Carlo last year.

Musetti defeated French teenager Arthur Fils 6-3, 7-5 on Tuesday, marking his 100th career tour-level victory.

"It's kind of fun, because it's exactly one year, same tournament, same round and same spot," Musetti said.

The other seeded players to take the court Tuesday went on to win, mostly in straightforward fashion. German fifth seed Alexander Zverev beat Austria's Sebastian Ofner 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes, while No. 11 Alex de Minaur of Australia took down Swiss wild card Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 6-0 in just 62 minutes.

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz had a tougher challenge. The No. 10 seed outlasted Jack Draper of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2). Draper came back from a 5-3 deficit in the third set to force the tiebreaker, but Hurkacz leapt out to a 4-0 lead before winning on the second match point.

French wild card Gael Monfils rallied past Australian lucky loser Aleksandar Vukic 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 7-5. Also advancing were Sebastian Korda, Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff, Spanish qualifier Roberto Bautista Agut, Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry, Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and Zhizhen Zhang of China. - Reuters

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