Fognini, Sinner advance in straight sets at Monte Carlo

Earlier, second-ranked Daniil Medvedev withdrew from the first major clay-court tournament of the season following a positive COVID-19 test.

Fognini during his first round match against Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic.   -  REUTERS

Fabio Fognini opened the defence of his Monte Carlo Masters title with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Miomir Kecmanovic Tuesday as second-ranked Daniil Medvedev withdrew from the clay-court tournament after testing positive for COVID-19.

The 15th-seeded Fognini was set to start his campaign Monday but rain delayed his return by a day. Back on the stage of his biggest success two years earlier, Fognini advanced to the second round after hitting 27 winners.

READ|Medvedev tests COVID-19 positive, out of Monte Carlo Masters

The Italian baseliner triumphed on the Riviera in 2019, beating 11-time champion Rafael Nadal on his way to the title. The tournament was cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

“It is really special because I was born here, I was born in (nearby) San Remo,” said Fognini, reflecting on his return. “I was practising here since I was 14 years old. I have a lot of memories here.”

Fognini will face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the second round.

READ|Gasquet pulls out of Monte Carlo following COVID-19 related complications

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, who was runner-up in Miami this year, also progressed to set up a mouth-watering contest with top-ranked Novak Djokovic. Sinner defeated 2017 runner-up Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic will be playing for the first time since winning his ninth Australian Open title in February.

Nadal is also playing in the tournament, chasing a record-extending 12th title here. He has recovered from a back injury and will be playing in only his second tournament of the season following a quarterfinal exit at the Australian Open.

READ|Nadal shrugs off fitness concerns ahead of Monte Carlo return

“I am good. Honestly, I am confident. I am playing well,” Nadal said. “It’s true that I didn’t play much. At the same time, (it) is true that I had good success in the past without playing much."

Earlier, second-ranked Daniil Medvedev withdrew from the first major clay-court tournament of the season following a positive COVID-19 test. Organizers said Medvedev was placed in isolation.

READ|Medvedev comes clean: 'I don't like clay'

“It’s a big disappointment not to play in Monte Carlo,” Medvedev said. “My focus is now on recovery and I look forward to getting back out on Tour as soon and as safely as possible.”

Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Aslan Karatsev and will take on either John Millman or 16th-seeded Cristian Garin for a spot in the quarterfinals.

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