Novak Djokovic looks motivated and brilliant in hammering Roman Safiullin

Djokovic is next scheduled to play on Thursday.
Julian Finney/GettyImages

No Goran Ivanisevic, no worries for Novak Djokovic in his first match since surprisingly being bounced out of Indian Wells in the round of 32 against qualifier Luca Nardi. Djokovic has had several changes since then including moving on from his long-time coach. Many might have assumed the Serb was simply preparing for the end of his career and what follows his run as arguably the greatest player ever. On Tuesday, the only thing Djokovic was prepared for was to overwhelm his opponent.

Roman Safiullin is not a bad player, either. But against Djokovic in the second round of the Monte-Carlo Masters, Safiullin mostly looked like he had never played on the ATP tour before as Djokovic won 6-1 6-2. But that was not the Russian's fault. He was overmatched by a player who looked as if he wanted to prove he was not quite ready to retire. If Djokovic wanted to remind people he is still the ATP No. 1, he did so against Safiullin.

Djokovic also was well-prepared to face Safiullin as on the Russian's serve, the Serb crowded the baseline to take the ball early and get his returns back quickly and at ridiculous angles. The tactic would not work as well for many players without Djokovic's ability to anticipate and react. This is partly why he had won 24 Grand Slams.

Novak Djokovic destroys Roman Safiullin in Monte-Carlo Masters

He is not just physically better than most. He also outthinks his opponents.

Safiullin has struggled with his form for much of 2024 after he made a run to the semifinals of the Brisbane International to open the year. He is only 2-6 in ATP events since then. The Russian has not played a lot on clay in his career, but when he has he has done comparatively well. Plus, as there were questions about Djokovic's form and motivation, some might have thought Safiullin could steal the match Luca Nardi-style.

Yet for much of the match, Safiullin was winning fewer than half of his serves. There was no question from the opening of the match when Djokovic jumped out to a 5-love lead and then broke Safiullin early in the second. After a month-long layoff, the Serb certainly did not look rusty. In fact, he appeared re-energized, perhaps to prove those ready to give up on him so easily that they were wrong.

Of course, sometimes the first match back can be the easiest. But Djokovic wasn't injured; just in poor form and seemingly not focused. He appears to be now which should be a warning to the rest of the ATP.

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