Juan Monaco of Argentina plays a return to Jiry Vesely of Czech Republic during their match of the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament in Monaco, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Lionel Cironneau
April 14, 2015

MONACO (AP) Gael Monfils overcame a shaky start to rally past Russian qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

The 14th-seeded Frenchman, who recently returned to the tour after a knee injury, struggled with his serve early before finding his range.

Monfils' display on the Country Club's center court was not as flashy as his green-and-yellow outfit. But despite the numerous unforced errors and the erratic tennis, the Frenchman was satisfied.

''I often struggled at this tournament. It's always a difficult period of the year for me, and I'm really happy I got through this one,'' Monfils said. ''I've lost similar matches here before.''

Monfils received a wild card from the organizers after deciding to play in the first clay-court Masters of the season at the last minute. He came back from a three-week absence in Miami, where he reached the fourth round but retired with a right hip problem.

''The early images were not so good, but I recovered sooner than expected,'' Monfils said. ''And the training I did over the past couple of days certainly paid off.''

Up a break in the opener, Monfils lost 12 of the last 14 points as Kuznetsov took control with a brilliant display at the net. But the Russian could not build on the momentum, dropping his serve twice in the second set.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Monfils hit two big serves to fend off break points and closed out the match.

Wild-card entry Lucas Pouille also advanced and will next face eight-time champion Rafael Nadal, while Juan Monaco will be up against defending champion Stan Wawrinka after defeating Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-2.

Following his victories in Indian Wells and Miami, top-ranked Novak Djokovic starts his bid of winning the opening three Masters events of the season against qualifier Albert Ramos-Vinolas later Tuesday.

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