Novak Djokovic suffered the first real loss of his 2016 season on Wednesday. While the Serb did lose a match to Feliciano Lopez several weeks back it was a loss via retirement. But today, Djokovic actually lost a match point as Jiri Vesely pulled off the upset of the 2016 season thus far.
The two players met in the second round of the Monte-Carlo Masters in a match that was the first head-to-head meeting for them. Vesely, entering this week ranked 55th in the world, had not faced Djokovic to date. Furthermore, the Serb had not lost a match to someone ranked as low as 55th in the world since a 2010 loss to X-man Xavier Malisse. However with the 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory the Czech player hijacked Djokovic’s top seed in Monaco and now has a look at the Monte-Carlo draw that he has to like.
Through the next two rounds Vesely cannot face anyone more proven than Gael Monfils or David Goffin, two players that will be looking to take advantage of Djokovic’s exit. In the semifinals, the draw looks understandably tougher as Roger Federer now looms very large on that half of the draw. However, the Monte-Carlo tournament has really opened up for all contenders, including Milos Raonic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, and maybe even Dominic Thiem. All four of those players are into the round of sixteen on the bottom half of the draw. Furthermore, Djokovic’s shocking loss has to have fans wondering what to make of the Serb’s bid to win the French Open this season.
After all, that tournament is the only major that Djokovic has not won to date. With Monte-Carlo, besides offering 1000 ranking points in and of itself, considered to be a key tournament as part of the build-up toward Paris, Djokovic’s loss may be hinting at another Roland Garros surprise. After all, he has lost his first clay-court match of the season, after winning practically all of his hard-court matches, to someone who is not regarded as a slam contender.
Unless the Serb enters one of the events, like Barcelona, that are to be played in the next couple of weeks to make up for the matches he didn’t get to play in Monte-Carlo, look for Djokovic in Madrid in early May. Like Monte-Carlo, Madrid is a part of the 1000 series, and it’s considered a key tournament in figuring out who the French Open favorites are. Djokovic won that tournament in 2011 but skipped it last season due to fatigue.
After that, it’s the Rome Masters followed by the French Open as the current World No. 1 continues his search for the Grand Slam that has so far eluded him. We’re used to seeing ‘surprise’ losses in Paris, with Stan Wawrinka, Jurgen Melzer, and Philipp Kohlschreiber involved in the Roland Garros damage over the years. However, a Djokovic loss early in Monte-Carlo to a player outside of the Top 50 was really out of the blue, and that has to shake up opinions on French Open favorites a bit.