Djokovic steams ahead amid French debacle

Serbian Novak Djokovic reached the last eight at the Monte Carlo Masters with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic, while Gilles Simon and Sebastien Grosjean added to French misery by dropping out in the first round.



MONTE CARLO - Serb Novak Djokovic put up a solid performance to reach the Monte Carlo Masters third round with a 6-3 6-3 win over Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic on Tuesday.


Ljubicic, who showed no mercy in knocking out Gustavo Kuerten on Monday, was helpless on centre court against Australian champion Djokovic.


The third seed, who was granted a first-round bye, now meets either Britain's Andy Murray or Italian Filippo Volandri, who were scheduled next on centre court.


Following an early exchange of breaks, Djokovic stole his opponent's serve in the fifth game and held on to take the first set.


After breaking again early in the second, he saved two break points in the eighth game before wrapping up victory when Ljubicic netted a forehand.


"It was not easy, we had only met two years ago in Zagreb in an indoor tournament" said Djokovic, who was presented with the ATP 2007 Most Improved Player of the year award.


Both players use to practice together and Djokovic said their friendship played a role.


"That is why I got off to a nervous start but then I played at a very good level," he said.


Former world number one Marat Safin made light work of Belgian Xavier Malisse with a 6-3 6-2 win.


The Russian wildcard secured victory in 62 minutes on his first match point when Malisse sent a forehand wide.


Safin next meets fifth seed David Ferrer of Spain.


France's miserable run at the claycourt tournament continued with Marc Gicquel being thrashed 6-0 6-4 by Finn Jarkko Nieminen, who set up a second-round encounter with Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero.


Sebastien Grosjean retired with a thigh injury from his first-round match against Croatia's Ivo Karlovic when trailing 4-6 6-4 4-1.


Gilles Simon suffered a 6-1 6-1 drubbing by Spain's Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.


There was no scare for 12th seed Tommy Robredo, who went through with a 6-4 7-5 defeat of Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.

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