Monte Carlo, April 16: World number one Novak Djokovic came through another testing clash with Philipp Kohlschreiber to win 6-3 4-6 6-4 at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday (April 16).
Djokovic was knocked out of at Indian Wells by Kohlschreiber last month and, while he avenged that defeat, this was far from a straightforward success on Court Rainier III.
The Serbian saved four break points before edging the first set and then let his frustration boil over in a poor performance in the second.
Some composure was regained in the third and Djokovic moved through to the next round, although still looking some way short of his Australian Open title-winning form at this early stage on the clay.
Kohlschreiber went toe-to-toe with Djokovic in an initially high-tempo match, passing up a huge opportunity with a second break point at 2-2 as he missed a wide-open court at the net.
Another pair of openings came and went in Djokovic's next service game and the top seed was comparatively ruthless, breaking 5-3 in front with a smart return before holding to love to take the opener.
Momentum swung back and forth in the second, with Kohlschreiber three times immediately ceding his advantage after breaking in front thanks to sloppy Djokovic errors.
Meanwhile, Djokovic, who required treatment to his right hand, smashed his racket into the red dirt after the second break and launching his equipment after the ball as he battled to a third recovery.
A fourth Kohlschreiber gain finally took the match to a decider, yet Djokovic then immediately broke in front and scraped to a precious subsequent hold.
Try as he might, Kohlschreiber could not recover and Djokovic saw out his 850th tour-level victory with a fifth match point after just over two-and-a-half gruelling hours on court.
He will meet Taylor Fritz in round three, the American having been leading Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 2-0 before the Frenchman retired.