World number one Novak Djokovic began his quest for a fourth Madrid Open title with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Gael Monfils on Tuesday, improving his unbeaten record to 18-0 against the Frenchman.
The result ensures Djokovic remains at the top of the rankings while it earned Monfils the ignominy of having the worst record against a single opponent without winning in the Open era.
“I would probably rate it as the best performance of the year,” Djokovic told reporters. “I felt very good on the court. (The rain) interruption probably helped me a bit more than him.
“I played one of the most athletic and quickest players that we have in the game, Gael… I know I have to always be ready that another ball will always come back from his part of the court.
“You have to constantly try to have a controlled aggression and dictate the point.”
Djokovic first played Monfils at the US Open in 2005 but Tuesday’s match was only their second encounter on clay and he needed only one break point to clinch the first set.
Although Monfils fired more winners, he made things easier for the Serbian with several unforced errors as he attempted risky shots that did not pay off.
Monfils did entertain the crowd with a few shots worthy of the highlights reel, including a ‘tweener’ that had even Djokovic applauding along with the fans.
But the top seed was well in control of proceedings, breaking twice in the second set before serving for the match to advance to the third round where he will meet Andy Murray.