Djokovic and Murray to meet on Madrid clay

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Novak Djokovic feels like the hard work is starting to pay off and he aims to regain his best form after a slow start to the season.

The world No.1 looked sharp in his opening match at the Madrid Open, defeating Gael Monfils 6-3 6-2 to advance to the third round.

"I would probably rate it as the best performance of the year. I felt very good on the court," the top-ranked Djokovic said.

He saved all five break points he faced and converted the three he had against the 21st-ranked Frenchman.

It improved the Serb's record over Monfils to 18-0 and a rain interruption at 2-2 which forced the roof on centre court to be closed only delayed the inevitable.

"Just generally very, very good performance," Djokovic said.

"I'm very pleased, considering, you know, that up to today I was not playing my best tennis in the few tournaments that I played this year and still kind of finding my rhythm, finding my groove."

Djokovic arrived in Madrid with a 5-3 record in the three tournaments he has played in 2022.

He had needed three sets in each of his last three victories this season, all in Serbia before losing the final there to Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic played in only one hard-court tournament after having not been allowed to participate in the Australian Open because of his vaccination status.

He lost to Jiri Vesely in the Dubai quarter-finals.

He lost to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his opening match in Monte Carlo, which was his only other clay tournament this season before arriving in Madrid.

"I'm really glad that it paid off, because I felt good on the court," he said.

"It's the right process, and it's the right direction."

Djokovic will next face two-time Madrid champion Andy Murray -- in their first meeting since January 2017.

In his first clay-court event since the 2020 French Open, Murray backed up his first-round win over Dominic Thiem by accounting for 14th-seeded Denis Shapovalov 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Meanwhile, Rublev reached the third round after rallying to a 2-6 6-4 7-5 win over 20-year-old Jack Draper of Britain.

The eighth-ranked Rublev -- whose title in Serbia to go with those in Dubai and Marseille -- joined Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz as the only players to have won three events this year.

Teenage sensation Alcaraz kept his good run going with a 6-3 7-5 win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, to remain on course for a quarter-final encounter with his idol Nadal.

Nadal will face Miomir Kecmanovic on Wednesday, the same day Alex de Minaur, the only Australian in the draw, plays his second round match against Jannik Sinner.

Seeded duo Hubert Hurkacz and Roberto Bautista Agut were among Tuesday's first-round winners while Diego Schwartzman, Cristian Garin and Sebastian Korda also advance to the second round.

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