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Novak Djokovic has suffered a disastrous start to his clay-court campaign at the Monte Carlo Masters, going down to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Tuesday.
The World No.1 slumped to defeat in just his fourth match of the season, losing 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1 to the unseeded Spaniard.
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The Serbian star has endured a tough start to the year after he was deported from Australia in January and unable to defend his Australian Open title for being unvaccinated against Covid-19.
Djokovic, who only played three matches in Dubai in February ahead of the Masters 1000 event in Monaco, struggled to find his range early in the contest as Davidovich Fokina raced to a 4-1 lead before taking the opening set on Court Rainier III.
The World No.46 grabbed an early break in the second set to go up 3-0, but Djokovic battled back before overcoming issues with a wobbly serve to level the contest in a tight tiebreak.
Davidovich Fokina then raised his game in the decider, preying on mistakes made by a tiring Djokovic and completing the victory when the Serb found the net.
"This win is so special to me because I grew up watching Nole (Djokovic) and I'm a big fan of his," the 22-year-old said in his post-match interview.
Djokovic was broken nine times throughout the match - the first time that has ever happened in his career.
He also made 51 unforced errors, and Davidovich Fokina said rustiness could have played a part.
"I knew Nole didn't have the confidence because he didn't play a lot this season ... I had my chances in the beginning of the match and I took them," he said.
"When he won the second set it was tough mentally, but I work hard to be focused. I had to be prepared for the war."
Novak Djokovic 'ran out of gas'
Djokovic said he simply "ran out of gas" after two months on the sidelines due to his vaccination status.
"I was hanging on the ropes the entire match. I was really chasing the result constantly," he said.
"I didn't like the way I felt physically in the third (set). I just ran out of gas completely.
"Just couldn't really stay in the rally with him. If you can't stay in the rally, not feeling your legs on the clay, it's mission impossible.
"I always believed that I could come back and win the match, and I stayed there even though a lot of things were against me in terms of how I felt on the court.
"Game-wise, physically I was just far from my best.
"Of course in those types of conditions and circumstances, then you have to really work two times more than you normally would.
"I expected this match to be a really tough match, a physical battle, and that's what it was.
"Unfortunately I'm on the shorter end of the stick, and my week ends here."
The loss marks the first time Djokovic has fallen in his opening match at a tournament since going down to Martin Klizan in Barcelona four years ago.
The 20-time grand slam champion hasn't made it past the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo since 2015.
"I knew a few days ago when I spoke to you that it's going to take some time for me to really feel my best on the clay," said Djokovic.
"That's historically always been the case. I have never played very well in the opening tournaments of the clay season.
"But it's okay. Obviously it is what it is. I have to accept the defeat and keep working."
Fans and commentators were left stunned by the monumental upset.
Davidovich beat Djokovic? That’s the biggest win of his career and the most shocking upset this year.
— Peter O.K.H (@Peter_OKH) April 12, 2022
Djokovic looks awful so far. Terrible first set
— Maria Panova (@notsleeeping) April 12, 2022
Awful match today, but great to see him back on court!
At this point W/L doesn't matter, the most important thing is getting ready for Roland Garros, where it will matter.
Next stop, Belgrade!
Let's get them champ! 🏆🇷🇸#djokovic𓃵 #novakdjokovic #ATPMontecarlo #ATP #NoleFam pic.twitter.com/16y7QUcZRq
— Wolfy (@BigBadWolfWolfy) April 12, 2022
Can't believe we went from thinking about winning 21st in AUS to losing to vesely and fokina.
Luck of Nadal is just different in tennis.
He basically ended Novak Djokovic by doing nothing on court.
Spanish black magic aunties taught Rafa and tony well.
— Abdullah Hammad (@abdullahhammad4) April 12, 2022
— Stephen A .Williams (@Stephen56966766) April 12, 2022
oh my god my heart can't take an early morning djokovic pack in the air. https://t.co/LGHXsiJqpk
— Alex Insdorf (@alexinsdorf99) April 12, 2022
Novak Djokovic oh my GOD
— 😈shawn😈 (@SaiyanLune) April 12, 2022
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