Novak Djokovic had a shaky start to the match but eventually qualified for the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters with a 7-6(5), 6-2 win over Russian player Ivan Gakhov.
The world number one, who had not played since early March when he reached the final in Dubai after having to miss Indian Wells and Miami because he was not vaccinated against COVID, struggled to find the range of action on the Monte Carlo clay before imposing himself on the center court.
Gakhov tried his shots and got the first break of service to lead 4-3, only for the Serb to break right back and take the opening set by winning the tiebreak 7-5.
Djokovic left no chance for his opponent to come back.
The two-time Roland Garros champion, who suffered an opening-round exit here last year, will next face Lorenzo Musetti or compatriot Italian 16 seed Luca Nardi.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev, who suffered a serious ankle injury in his Roland Garros semi-final against Rafael Nadal, returned to the clay with a 3-6 6-2 6-4 first-round victory over Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik.
Spain’s Nadal, who has triumphed 11 times at the Monte Carlo Country Club, is absent because he failed to recover from a hip injury that kept him out of the Australian Open.
His compatriot Carlos Alcaraz is also missing from the tournament due to hand and back problems.
On Tuesday, Stefanos Tstitsipas, the second favorite, will face the Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.
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