Novak Djokovic eased into the Round of 16 at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on Wednesday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over fast-rising youngster Jannik Sinner.
It was the first career meeting between the two, though they are familiar with each other having shared a practice court both at their residence in Monaco and at the Piatti Tennis Center in Italy.
“I think what impresses me the most is his professionalism, his dedication to the everyday routines that he has to endure in order to play at such high level,” Djokovic said. “I think this is why the consistency of his results is there. With him it’s different.”
Sinner came into his fourth career Masters 1000 appearance in sizzling form after reaching the final at the Miami Open presented by Itau, making him a real threat to Djokovic’s start to the clay season. But after an early loss of serve, Djokovic was in control for most of the match.
“I have to be satisfied considering I think I had a tough draw for the first round, playing Sinner, who is in form, who is striking the ball very well. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I walked into the court with the right intensity, right focus,” Djokovic said. “First maybe three, four games I was still feeling maybe not as comfortable hitting the ball. Then I started to work my way in the match.”
Even with no fans permitted on the grounds, Djokovic celebrated the win with his customary open-armed hugs and kisses.
“At the same time I try to take the positive side of it,” he said of playing to empty stands. “We have this calm and kind of serenity on the stands and on the court. It just allows you to maybe focus on yourself a bit more, not have maybe as many distractions around that can happen. I try to focus on those positives and be optimistic and build my form.”
The 33-year-old takes on Daniel Evans next for a place in the Masters 1000 quarter-finals — it will be the second match in a row where the World No 1 is facing an entirely new opponent. He’ll be doing his homework.
“Very smart player,” Djokovic said. “You would think that with his game maybe the clay would suit him the least, but he’s proving people wrong. He moves great. Very, very dynamic, explosive player. Great forehand, good serve. He comes to the net. He uses his slice very well.
“Obviously every time you face someone for the first time, probably I’m going to have to use a little bit more analysis of his game prior to tomorrow’s match, talk to few people and my coach as well, try to prepare myself as best as I can.”