Novak Djokovic battles back to defeat Gilles Simon at the Monte Carlo Masters but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crashes out

The World No 2 needed over two hours to beat Simon in his opening match of the Monte Carlo Masters, while French number one Tsonga was stunned by a qualifier

It took Djokovic over two hours to stop Simon
It took Djokovic over two hours to stop Simon

World No 2 Novak Djokovic was handed a scare on his return to the ATP Tour, as he was forced to battled back in the deciding set to beat Gilles Simon at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Djokovic has only just returned from a persistent injury to his right elbow and was hoping for a quick match against Simon, who has struggled for form this season and is currently ranked outside the top 30.

And the Serbian, who won this tournament in 2013 and 2015, started promisingly enough. He took the first set 6-3, despite making a number of unforced errors and struggling with his first serve.

The Serbian has won in Monte Carlo twice before

When Simon was broken early in the second it looked like Djokovic would be back in the clubhouse with his feet up in little over an hour, but Simon rallied, winning five straight games to take the set in just over 53-minutes.

The Frenchman, formerly ranked World No 6, then smashed a beautiful forehand down the line on break point in the third set to serve for the match. But Djokovic held his nerve, winning the next three games and sealing victory when Simon struck a desperate forehand long.

For Djokovic, victory constituted a job well done regardless of how hard he had been pushed by the Frenchman.

“It was a very difficult match, with many changes of momentum,” Djokovic said after the match.

“It was very tiring for me, the first clay of the season. But this is the start of the Roland Garros build-up.”

Djokovic looked relieved to eventually prevail

It was Simon’s 10th straight defeat against Djokovic and means the 32-year-old is now without a competitive win since February.

And he struggled to hide his disappointment on passing up the opportunity to play either Pablo Carreño Busta or Karen Khachanov in the Third Round, blaming his lack of composure for the loss.

“At 5-4, a lot of work was done to reach that stage. I was not as calm as I had to be. My shots were not as precise... It was a tough moment,” he commented.

“But when you play a match like that, sometimes one is up and the other one is down, and it changes. I played two bad points in a row, and the end came quickly. Of course, I would have preferred to do better at 5-4.”

Simon was disappointed with his lack of composure

While Djokovic narrowly avoided an upset, the French number one succumbed to one. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lived up to his madly unreliable reputation on Tuesday morning when he crashed to a three-set defeat to qualifier Adrian Mannarino.

A two-time semi-finalist at the Country Club and back on court for the first time since the birth of his son, Tsonga had not played since losing his opening match to Fabio Fognini at Indian Wells in early March.

Tsonga crashed out to a qualifier

He made a good start, leading 3-0 in the first set, but struggled with Mannarino’s wild range of baseline shots and was broken no fewer than six times in the 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3 defeat.

The Brits still remaining in Monte Carlo are both in action on Tuesday, with Andy Murray making his competitive return against the big-serving Gilles Müller, who he has never previously lost to.

Meanwhile Kyle Edmund’s reward for eliminating compatriot Dan Evans is a Third Round match with Rafael Nadal, who has won nine of the last 12 tournaments at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

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