Novak Djokovic passes Rafael Nadal! Roger Federer is next

Novak Djokovic is playing his 129th Masters 1000 tournament in Monte Carlo

by Jovica Ilic
Novak Djokovic passes Rafael Nadal! Roger Federer is next
© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic is playing his 129th Masters 1000 tournament in Monte Carlo, earning a massive milestone. Rafael Nadal withdrew before the event, staying on 128 Masters 1000 appearances and allowing his great rival to pass him.

Thus, Djokovic holds the fourth place on the list with most Masters 1000 tournaments, trailing Fernando Verdasco (130), Roger Federer (138) and Feliciano Lopez (139), who are all retired. If the Serb keeps entering the premium ATP events, he should become the leader by the end of 2025.

Novak debuted at a Masters 1000 series in Paris 2005 at 18, gathering the experience in the next couple of years and standing on 27 appearances at the end of 2008.

Novak Djokovic, Monte Carlo 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Djokovic competed at all nine tournaments in 2009 and barely missed them in the next six years, skipping only six between 2010 and 2016!

Also, Novak became a player to beat at a Masters 1000 level, earning numerous records and writing history books. The Serb added 17 Masters 1000 events to his tally in 2018 and 2019 before slowing down in the previous five years, focusing on Majors.

Djokovic has played only 14 Masters 1000 tournaments since the beginning of 2020, doing enough to pass Nadal and move closer to the remaining rivals in front of him. Novak kicked off his 129th Masters 1000 event with a commanding 6-1, 6-2 win over Roman Safiullin in 70 minutes in the second round in Monte Carlo.

Djokovic entered the clay season with poor form, playing only two matches after the Australian Open and suffering an early Indian Wells exit. However, the Serb played well against the Russian, sealing the deal in no time and notching his 401st Masters 1000 win, standing five behind Rafael Nadal's record.

Novak played well on serve and return, dropping six points in his games and creating break opportunities in every return game. Safiullin stood powerless on the return and struggled behind the initial shot, getting broken five times from 19 chances offered to world no.

1. Djokovic tamed his strokes nicely, landing his trademark down the line shots and building the advantage in the shortest and more advanced exchanges.

Novak Djokovic, Monte Carlo 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic passed Rafael Nadal on a Masters 1000 milestone.

They could not find the first serve in the opening set, which only affected Roman.

Novak grabbed all the points behind the second serve and kept the pressure on the other side. The Serb grabbed three breaks and made a convincing start that provided him with a boost. Safiullin made a shaky start, playing a loose forehand in the first game of the encounter and suffering a break.

Djokovic secured the second game with a forced error and made another push on the return in the next one. Roman sprayed a forehand error in the third game, offering Novak three break chances. The Russian denied them but could not bring the game home, hitting a forced error on the fourth break chance and falling 3-0 behind.

Novak Djokovic, Monte Carlo 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Djokovic clinched the fourth game to extend the gap and created more opportunities on the return at 4-0. The Russian played against three break points, denying them and closing the game with an unreturned serve, reducing the deficit after 27 minutes.

Novak left those chances behind and produced another fine hold in game six with a forehand winner. Djokovic grabbed a break at love in game seven, wrapping up the opener 6-1 after 33 minutes when Safiullin netted a forehand.

Novak extended his streak at the beginning of the second set, closing the first game with an ace and taking the previous 12 points. Roman played another loose forehand in the second game, facing two break points and denying them.

The Russian held with a service winner, leveling the score at 1-1 and avoiding an early setback. World no. 1 secured the third game with a service winner and created more opportunities on the return, maintaining the pressure on his rival.

Djokovic earned three break points with a forehand down the line winner and converted the second after Safiullin's costly double fault. Novak moved 3-1 in front and provided another comfortable hold, landing a forehand winner in game five and moving closer to the finish line.

Still struggling behind the initial shot, Roman played against four break points in the sixth game.

Novak Djokovic, Monte Carlo 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

He stayed focused and denied them, holding after Novak's forehand error and remaining within one break deficit.

Djokovic stayed on a steady course in his games, landing powerful serves at 4-2 for a comfortable hold and forcing Safiullin to serve to stay in the match in game eight. Novak made another push on the return, like in the entire match.

World no. 1 painted a forehand winner and earned two match points. Safiullin denied the first with a backhand winner before Djokovic grabbed the second after the rival's forehand mistake, making a winning start and sailing into the third round. Novak will face Lorenzo Musetti on Thursday, losing against the Italian in the same round a year ago.

Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal Roger Federer