Djokovic reaches second round of Monte Carlo Masters

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MONACO — Novak Djokovic reached the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Dusan Lajovic on Monday.

The ninth-seeded Serb won in only 57 minutes despite having to save break points in three consecutive service games in the second set, including two when serving for the match.

Djokovic, a two-time champion in Monte Carlo, won on his first match point when Lajovic swiped a forehand wide. He then whipped off his hat, tilted his head back and raised his hands in triumph.

The former-top ranked Djokovic has been troubled by a persistent right elbow injury and his ranking has tumbled to No. 13. Earlier this month, he stopped working with Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek – the latest in a series of coaching changes for the 12-time major champion. He has not won a Grand Slam tournament since the 2016 French Open.

“I’ve had a very difficult time in the last 12 months with the injury and everything else that’s happened,” Djokovic said. “I’m lacking matches and a bit of confidence on court. But I’m looking ahead.”

Djokovic will next face Borna Coric of Croatia, who beat French veteran Julien Benneteau 6-2, 6-3.

Kei Nishikori reached the second round by beating Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. He broke the 12th-seeded Czech’s serve six times and dropped his own twice.

Nishikori, like Djokovic, needs time on court after only recently returning from a torn tendon in his right wrist. That injury had ruled him out of last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open.

The Japanese player, ranked 36th, came back in late February when he lost to Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Mexico Open. He then reached the third round of the Miami Masters last month, losing to Juan Martin del Potro.

“It’s not great but first match on clay, I’m expecting (a) little soreness,” Nishikori said. “Hope I get more confidence and do well (at) these five tournaments on clay.”

Other winners included Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, Milos Raonic of Canada, Andrey Rublev of Russia, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.

Ramos-Vinolas, who lost in last year’s final, beat Jared Donaldson 6-3, 6-3. Donaldson ranted at the chair umpire over a line call and then squared up to him as he continued to argue. The 21-year-old American received a code violation.

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight charge on mental health grounds

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CANBERRA, Australia – Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police last December.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last month to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”

Wimbledon champ Rybakova beats Keys in Ostrava opener

Agel Open Ostrava - Day One
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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakova came from a set down to defeat Madison Keys 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Agel Open on Monday.

Rybakova had lost to Keys this year at the French Open and Cincinnati.

In other first-round matches in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 6-3, and local hope Petra Kvitova overcame American Bernanda Pera 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Fresh from her second title of the year in Seoul last month, Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia knocked out former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.