Novak Djokovic lost to Alejandro Davidovich Fokin at the Masters in Monte Carlo

Novak Djokovic’s tennis season, like no other, resumed on Tuesday at home.

Failures keep going.

Deported from Australia in January because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19 and thus failed to meet entry requirements, was shot down early in Dubai in February and failed to enter the United States for a tournament in March, Djokovic returned to the court at the Masters of Monte Carlo after a seven-week break in competition. From the very beginning, he bravely bounced the ball before disappearing, losing in the opening match to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1.

Davidovich, a 22-year-old Spaniard, broke Djokovic’s serve nine times, most of all that Djokovic beat on tour in any match with the best of the three sets.

“I collapsed,” Djokovic told reporters in Monaco. “I hung on the ropes the whole match. I was really chasing the result all the time. “

It certainly was a frustration. Djokovic, despite the last break, still ranks 1st in the men’s round. He won 20 major singles titles, nearly finished the Grand Slam last season and was the second best player in the men’s field in the last decade after Rafael Nadal.

Davidovich, despite reaching the quarterfinals of last year’s French Open, is ranked 46th and lost in the first round of the last two tournaments. By Tuesday, he had beaten just one player from the top 10.

But in truth, this victory over Djokovic was just a surprise in lower case. Djokovic, who remains unvaccinated against Covid-19, is rusty for obvious reasons, and will soon turn 35. Men’s tennis is bustling with depth, and young stars are on the rise, like Davidovich’s 18-year-old compatriot Carlos Alcaras, who recently won the Miami Open.

Although there was a lot of noise around the possible quarter-final match between Djokovic and Alcaras, Djokovic got more than he could withstand from the second-generation Spaniard of the next generation.

“I knew that there was no such confidence in Nola, because he played little,” said Davidovich, using the nickname Djokovic. “I had to focus on every point because I had my chances from the start and I just did it.”

The 22-year-old Davidovich looks like a Viking ready to wreak havoc, with his head shaved at the sides and blond hair gathered in a knot. His father is Eduard Mark Davidovich, a former boxer from Sweden, and his mother is Tatiana Fokina from Russia. But he was born in Malaga, Spain, and grew up, as is clear from his accent, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. He started playing tennis at the age of 2 – even younger than Djokovic – and became one of the brightest and fastest people in the game under the care of his longtime coach Jorge Aguirre.

On his arm he has a tattoo of a shattered wave, and he plays tennis with aggression and invention, deploying a drop shot and a pass from under his arm. He often plays as a goalkeeper: tossed in the air to strike wide or fall on T. Against Djokovic he was soon covered in red clay, which remains for him the best cover, despite winning Wimbledon champion for boys on the grass in 2017 year.

Mental play became a major stumbling block for Davidovich, and he collaborated with a performance psychologist for several years to control his temper and maintain concentration and faith.

“It’s not easy to control everything inside yourself,” Aguirre told the Spanish newspaper ABC last year. “There are times when he begins to doubt whether he is really ready. These flaws in concentration come from uncertainty. We managed to cut them. Previously, they could last for months, then weeks, and now we work, so they last only for a game or a point, and then a year later or disappear completely.

They are not gone yet. Davidovich lost twice as much break in the second set, giving impetus to Djokovic. Despite Djokovic failing to give up the second set 5-4 – making four unforced errors – he managed to win a tie-break by making a forehand pass.

Opening his eyes, Djokovic put his finger to his ear and nodded confidently, staring at the crowd before howling with relief. It was a familiar scene for those who watched the steady Serbian star, but this time there will be no return, in part because he has played so little lately and because the second set required 1 hour 23 minutes of effort.

After a 10-minute break, Djokovic returned to the ground, but soon radiated negative energy, talking to himself when he lost the serve again, despite jumping to a 40-15 lead. This time Davidovich did not flinch: he finished the champion, who beat him strongly in the previous two matches and who has long been a role model for him in tennis (during the pandemic, they trained together in Spain).

But Djokovic’s game and attitude were close to unrecognizable throughout the stretch as he raced through his innings and missed a shot. He finished with 51 unforced errors at the club where, as a Monaco resident, he trains regularly.

“I didn’t like how I felt physically in the third,” Djokovic said. “I just ran out of gas. Just couldn’t stay with him at the rally. I mean, if you can’t stay in the rally without feeling your feet on the clay, that mission is impossible. ”

Take care of him because he spent so much. Djokovic has been in great shape for a long time, but he has also had the coronavirus at least twice, although he has shown no signs that it has affected his endurance.

“I’m going with my team to find out the reasons,” he said of his third set.

Now it’s a smaller team. He no longer works with his longtime friend and coach Marian Vaida, resulting in 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisovic becoming head coach. Ivanisevich was with Djokovic in January in Australia, where he arrived to defend the Australian Open title, only to have his visa revoked due to vaccination. He spent time in custody as his appeal was considered and was deported on the eve of the Australian Open. After he also missed American tournaments in Indian Wells, California, and Miami, in 2022 he played only four singles matches.

His record is now alarming 2-2, but it should be remembered that Djokovic is one of the top fighters in the sport and that he previously lost to Monte Carlo only to find balance and make his way to the French Open, his main goal in May . .

The next stop in the most amazing season: more home soil next week at the tournament in Belgrade, the Serbian capital where he was born.

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