Novak Djokovic vs Gael Monfils: Mutua Madrid Masters Preview

Novak Djokovic in action at the ATP Belgrade Open.
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Following a decent outing in Belgrade just a week ago, Novak Djokovic returns to the Madrid Masters with a few much-needed wins under his belt. In his tournament opener in Madrid, the World No.1 will lock horns against fellow veteran Gael Monfils on Tuesday.

Despite being bageled in the deciding set against Andrey Rublev in the final at the Serbia Open, Djokovic should be able to draw plenty of confidence from his run in Belgrade. After bowing out in his tournament opener at the Monte Carlo Masters, the Serb gained much-needed match practice in his three successive three-set victories in Belgrade. He should be hoping to elevate his level in Madrid.

In his first tournament on the red dirt this season, the veteran Frenchman breezed past Spanish wild card Carlos Gimeno Valero 6-3 6-0 in just 55 minutes to set up a mouth-watering clash against the 34-year-old Serb.

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Novak Djokovic vs Gael Monfils

As far as Monfils is concerned, his matchup against Djokovic has been extremely difficult throughout his career. Djokovic comprehensively dominates their duel 17-0 so far on the ATP tour. Interestingly, in their only clash on clay so far, Djokovic won in straight sets at Roland Garros in 2006. Despite showing glimpses of breathtaking tennis in a few of his encounters against Djokovic in the past, Monfils has always struggled to cross the finish line. With the World No.1 still far off from his best tennis, the Frenchman might sniff a chance.

Match Preview

While Djokovic demonstrated tremendous resilience in his come-from-behind victories in Belgrade, he is still to attain his vintage best level of tennis. Against an unpredictable and unconventional opponent like Monfils, Djokovic must hit the top gear to come out of the battle unscathed.

On the other hand, Monfils, who is often criticized for his inconsistency, is enjoying a new lease of life so far this season. Apart from winning the title in Adelaide at the beginning of the season, the 35-year-old reached the quarterfinal at the Australian Open. He also upset Daniil Medvedev at the Indian Wells Masters in March. He should be high on confidence after his dominating win in his Round-of-64 clash ahead of his contest against Djokovic.

Of late, Djokovic has been slow to start. Monfils should emphasize riding high from the get-go to put the Serb under pressure. The Serb, who is short on match practice, must make a conscious effort to rush to the net whenever there is an opportunity and employ drop shots periodically not only to shorten the points but also to upset the Frenchman’s rhythm.

If Djokovic and Monfils can hit the top gear simultaneously, their upcoming battle promises to be a physically-taxing clash comprising of lung-busting rallies from the back of the court. With his French Open defense in sight (vaccine rules permitting), a lot is at stake for Djokovic in Madrid. He hopes to build momentum in Madrid and Rome ahead of arriving in Paris.

Can Djokovic continue his stronghold over Monfils to stay in contention for his fourth Madrid Masters title? Or will the Frenchman stun Djokovic to record his first-ever win over the Serb?

A fascinating clash between two long-timers on the tour awaits us on Court Manolo Santana in Madrid on Tuesday.

Main Photo from Getty.