Djokovic outclasses Seppi
Monte Carlo - Novak Djokovic began his clay season on Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-4, victory over Italian Andreas Seppi as the world number one returned to the Monte Carlo Masters after one year away.
The Monaco-based Serb took a 5-0 lead over the 44th-ranked Seppi, winning the first set two games later and breaking for an early lead in the second on the way to his seventh win without a loss against the Italian.
"It takes about a week to get used to the clay," said the winner. "I had a tough match but I'm glad to get through."
The top seed will next play 16th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, who put out new Monte Carlo resident Bernard Tomic 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.
Djokovic had to skip the first leg of the clay-court run-up to Roland Garros in 2011 due to fatigue.
But after a two-week pause since his Miami title victory over Andy Murray, the Monaco-based Serb had plenty of time to prepare for this year's date.
Djokovic was headlining an elite double-header at the Monte Carlo country club as seven-time winner and second seed Rafael Nadal made his 2012 clay debut against Finn Jarkko Nieminen.
Nadal has not lost at the event in 37 matches, with his lone defeat from 40 Monte Carlo matches coming in 2003. He has won the title uninterruptedly since 2005 after missing play in 2004.
But the Spanish king of clay goes into his second-round contest against the in-form Finn worried by a left knee which required a fortnight of serious treatment after Nadal was unable to play a Miami semi-final due to pain.
He admitted that he fears physical problems with his knees but cannot judge anything until he plays a match.
Nadal owns Nieminen, 6-0, but the Finn has a title from Sydney in January while Nadal has not lifted a trophy in ten months since winning the French Open.
French ninth seed Gilles Simon reached the third round over Frederico Gil of Portugal 6-3, 6-0.
"The conditions suited me today," said Simon, who did complain about the early starting time of the match. "But playing at 10:30 is tough for me.
"It's difficult to wake up in the mornings and on clay, it takes longer before you can find your rhythm."
Results from the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1, 6-4
Gilles Simon (FRA x9) bt Frederico Gil (POR) 6-3, 6-0
Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. (UKR x16) bt Bernard Tomic (AUS) 6-2, 5-7, 6-1