ATP Monte Carlo: Karen Khachanov edges wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis in thrilling encounter

Monte Carlo Masters preview and prediction: Clay court season begins in earnest

Ranked 13th in the world after lengthy spells off the court with an elbow injury, Djokovic is training with Vajda for the first time since last year's Monte Carlo Masters.

Asked about Federer's decision not to contest a single clay-court event for the second straight season, Nadal grinned broadly. As you may expect from this, big-servers are not suited at all in what are very different conditions to what was witnessed last week on the quicker clay in Houston, and in Monte Carlo in this time period, a mere 0.30 aces per game were served, down from the 0.38 ATP clay average.

Tougher tests will no doubt follow, with Croatian ace Borna Coric awaiting him in round two before a potential tie with clay-court specialist Dominic Thiem in the last-16.

He won on his first match point, whipped off his hat, tilted his head back, and raised his hands in triumph.

After significant rest during the second half of past year and a medical procedure in February, Djokovic spoke confidently of being pain-free - at long last. Thiem and Nadal faced off four times on European clay past year (in Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Paris).

It's been a miserable year for Novak Djokovic but there were real signs of life in his opening Monte-Carlo Masters win over Dusan Lajovic.

They have won a record 30 Masters each, but Nadal looks the more likely to get No. 31. Still, he won't lose any point in the rankings as he didn't earn anything from mid-April to mid-June in 2017. Bedene hopes to make it to the third round of a ATP World Tour Masters 1000 for just the second time in his career. He has only ever played three matches at the tournament and incidentally, his last clash there was a three-set defeat to Berdych, who takes on the Japanese in the opening round next week. His display against world number four Alexander Zverev was particularly impressive, winning 6-1 6-4 6-4.

Kokkinakis received a wildcard into the Monte Carlo draw with his ranking still a low 148 following a long battle with injuries that halted his progress over the past three years. That injury ruled him out of the U.S. Open then the Australian Open.

The 21-year-old petulantly insisted a supervisor was called to check the mark, saying: "I can call the supervisor whenever I want".

Making it through the early rounds at this tournament should at least be more straightforward.

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