Novak Djokovic crashed out in his opening match at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday as the world number one played in just his second tournament of the year following his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Djokovic lost 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1 to 46th-ranked Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round after dropping his serve nine times.
The Serb’s only other appearance in 2022 was in Dubai in February where he played just three matches.
Djokovic admitted his absence from most events had been “difficult, mentally and emotionally” but said he was “moving on” ahead of his return to a tournament he won in 2013 and 2015.
Davidovich Fokina had lost both previous meetings to Djokovic in straight sets, in Rome and at the Tokyo Olympics last season, but he raced into a 4-1 lead and took the first set.
The Spaniard surged 3-0 ahead in the second only for Djokovic to win five of the next six games and serve for the set at 5-4.
He failed to do so at the first attempt but recovered in the tie break to force a decider.
Davidovich Fokina broke to start the third set as Djokovic double-faulted, and there was no way back this time for the top seed and 20-time Grand Slam champion.
It marks the first time Djokovic has lost his opening match at a tournament since falling to Martin Klizan at Barcelona four years ago.