Novak Djokovic signs Cincinnati Open opponent’s shirt after thrashing him again

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Gael Monfils might be sick of the sight of Novak Djokovic facing him at the opposite end of a tennis court, but at least he has a memento to take away from his latest defeat to the 23-time Grand Slam champion.

The pair were drawn together in the third round of the Cincinnati Open on Thursday and a quick glimpse at the history books confirmed that the French 36-year-old did not stand much of a chance against the world No 2.

In their 18 previous meetings, Djokovic has won all of them. And the result on Cincinnati’s centre court was no different this time around, as the Serb cruised to a routine 6-3, 6-2 victory with the minimum of fuss.

Djokovic’s 19th straight win against Monfils means that the former world No 1 now holds the record for the most one-sided head-to-head streak in the Open era. That title was previously held by Rafael Nadal, with his 18-0 record against Richard Gasquet.

Veteran Monfils is ranked 211th in the world and was unlikely to be expecting a different outcome against on the game’s true all-time greats, but he still left with a parting gift from his conqueror.

The Frenchman shared a photograph on Twitter of his shirt signed by Djokovic with the words “Sorry. Not Sorry” written on the garment by the Serb.

Monfils tweeted: “It may not have been the match I was hoping for against the GOAT, but it’s still an honor and a pleasure to face @DjokerNole. Despite everything, it remains a positive week. I’m going to rest to be on top at the US Open. Thank you so much for your incredible support.”

Despite clearly having the upper hand against his lower-ranked opponent, Djokovic acknowledged their many meetings after the match.

He said: “It was kind of an evolution of both players over the past 15-plus years that we’ve been playing each other in different parts of the world, also in juniors.

“I think early on I struggled a lot with him, I think physically as well. When you play one of the most athletic guys on the tour, you have to be ready, every ball comes back. A couple of points today, especially in the first set he showed his athleticism.”

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Djokovic only dropped four points on his serve in the first set and broke Monfils to love in game eight. The second set was even more one-side with the three-time US Open winner racing into a 5-0 lead before eventually closing out the set and the match 6-2.

“I just managed to hold my serve really comfortably. I think I was hitting the spots well, and just made him play,” Djokovic said. “He made a few unforced errors at 4-3 in the first set to hand me the break.

“After that it was no looking back for me. I started to raise the level more and more, almost a flawless second set. I guess his game suits me. It’s nice to see him back. We haven’t played for quite a few years. It’s great to see him back playing at a high level.”

Monfils has only recently returned to the tour after injuries ruined his 2022 campaign. Djokovic will now face top-ranked American Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinal in the early hours of Saturday morning (BST).

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