World no.1 Novak Djokovic made a winning return to action on Tuesday, when he defeated world no.198 Ivan Gakhov 7-6 (5), 6-2 to reach the third round at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The match lasted one hour and 47 minutes.

Novak had to work hard to beat the Russian qualifier. After the players traded breaks once in the opening set, they ended up in a tie-break. It was the top seed who emerged victorious, 7-5.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion┬áraised his level in the second set and found flaws Gakhov’s game to break his serve twice, in the fifth and seventh games. He is now 16-1 on the season.

“It was, if you can call it that way, an ugly tennis win for me today,” Djokovic said. “I haven’t played my best, particularly in the first set. And I kind of expected that that was going to happen with swirly conditions, a lot of wind today, changing directions. It’s different practising and then playing an official match on clay, where I guess no two bounces are the same. It’s always quite unpredictable what’s going to happen. But all in all, I’m just pleased with the way I held my nerves in the important moments and I managed to clinch the two-set win. He knows how to play, no doubt about it. Big serve, forehand, flat backhand stepping in. So it was a very tricky opponent for today, but I’m glad I overcame the challenge.”

Match statistics: aces (4-5), double faults (2-7), winners (14-24), unforced errors (21-31), total points won (79-63).

Novak will next play no.16 seed Lorenzo Musetti (def. qualifier Luca Nardi 6-0, 6-0).

The Serbian star is pursuing a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 title and his third trophy in Monte-Carlo.

Photo: Profimedia

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