Nadal begins quest for 12th Monte-Carlo title in auspicious fashion

(Update 1: Adds Nadal’s win)

Madrid, Apr 14 (EFE).- Rafael Nadal on Wednesday began his quest for a record-extending 12th Monte-Carlo Masters title in auspicious fashion claiming a 6-1, 6-2 win over Federico Delbonis at the second round of the first clay Masters of the season.

As the score may suggest, it was a largely one-sided match especially in the early phases, when the Spaniard stormed into a 5-0 lead before the Argentine was able to finally get a point into the scoreboard.

The 20-time Grand Slam champions then proceeded to seal the set after just 30 minutes of action.

Qualifier Delbonis showed more resistance in the second set and despite losing his serve twice in a row, to fall 3-0 behind; he won two games in a row for the first time in the match, a service break included to close the gap to 3-2.

The Spaniard, however, pocketed the following three games to earn his fifth win over Delbonis, who has not been able to claim a set against the so-called King of Clay.

“It was a good start, always good to come back to competition with a victory,” Nadal said after his first competitive match since his Australian Open quarterfinal defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“I think I played a solid match and I hope to keep going,” he added.

For a place in the quarterfinal, Nadal will face Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6, 6-4.

“Grigor has started playing the season well and it’s always a tough battle against him, so I will need to play my best,” Nadal said.

Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic overcame an early resistance from Jannik Sinner to top the Italian 6-4, 6-2 in the Monte-Carlo Masters round of 32.

Playing his first competitive match since clinching his 18th Grand Slam title in Melbourne, the Serb found himself trailing after a service break to the 19-year-old Italian, who had had to sweat to earn his opening service game.

The reaction of the top-ranked was immediate as he restored order by breaking Sinner’s serve for 2-2 in the first set. Then he moved on to earn himself another break that he consolidated with a 5-2 lead.

The Italian struggled but managed to hold his following serve for 5-3, which inspired him to break Djokovic’s in the following game while the Serb was serving for the first set.

His recovery, however, was short-lived, as Djokovic sealed the set on the second opportunity he created on Sinner’s serve, after hitting the ball onto the net on his first chance.

In the second set, Djokovic earned a couple of breaks in the fourth and eighth games, sealing his tenth victory in a row this season.

“It was a very good encounter. I thought it was a great first match [and] a big challenge for me. Jannik is in form,” Djokovic said afterwards.

“He played the final [in] Miami and has been playing well. I just hung in there today and managed to find the right shots and the right game at the right time,” he added.

Next up for Djokovic will be Briton Daniel Evans, who defeated Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, the reigning Miami Open holder in straight sets. EFE


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