Novak Djokovic admits that he was made to work during his second round win at the Japan Open on Wednesday.
The 16-time grand slam champion overcame a late-match blip to see off home player Go Soeda 6-3, 7-5, at the Ariake Coliseum. The same venue which will host the 2020 Olympic tennis tournament. Breaking twice in the opening set, Djokovic wasn’t placed under pressure until the business end of the match. Leading proceedings 6-3, 5-3, a lacklustre service game revived Soeda’s chances as he fought back to draw level. Saving three match points in the process. Despite the lapse, Djokovic soon regained his focus and momentum by claiming eight points in a row to seal victory.
“[He] made me work for my win today and the atmosphere was really good on the court,” Djokovic said.
“I think I played a pretty good tennis match. From the baseline, I was solid, aggressive when I needed to be and taking the ball early. I served very well until that game when I was serving for the match at 5-3. I made some double faults, I missed all my first serves, so I didn’t serve that well that game, allowing him to break back and come back to the match,” he added.
Playing in only his second match since withdrawing from the US Open due to a shoulder injury, Djokovic hit 25 winners to 18 unforced errors. Recording his 43rd win of 2019 and moving into the quarter-finals of an ATP tournament for the 9th time this season. The win follows up on his victory over Australia’s Alexi Popryin in the opening round on Tuesday.
“I think I played a pretty good tennis match.” Djokovic evaluated about his latest victory.
“From the baseline, I was solid, aggressive when I needed to be and taking the ball early. I served very well until that game when I was serving for the match at 5-3. I made some double faults, I missed all my first serves, so I didn’t serve that well that game, allowing him to break back and come back to the match.”
Djokovic will next take on world No.24 Lucas Pouille. The Frenchman experienced an easier match on Wednesday with a clinical 6-1, 6-2, win over Yoshihito Nishioka.
This week Djokovic is bidding to win the Japan Open on his main draw debut. Something he has already achieved at nine other tournaments with the most recent taking place in Eastbourne back in 2017.
Mixed fortunes for rivals
Elsewhere at the tournament, eighth seed Alex de Minaur saw his recent winning streak on the tour come to an end. The Australian, who won the Zhuhai Championships last week, was edged out in three sets by South Africa’s Lloyd Harris. De Minaur saw two match points come and go in the decisive tiebreaker before being edged out 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(8), after more than three hours of play. Harris will play another Australian, John Millman, next.
There was better news for third seed David Goffin, who won the tournament back in 2017. The Belgian was given a stern scare during his roller-coaster 1-6, 7-6(8), 6-0, win over Pablo Carreno-Busta.
“It was not easy. [It was a] tough first set, he was playing very good and had a lot of confidence going in. He didn’t miss a ball, and it was tough to find a rhythm,” Goffin told atptour.com. “He’s such a great player, great fighter and he was serving well. He was doing everything well in the first. So I had to just fight, wait a little bit, try to find my timing, my groundstrokes. It came a little bit, I served a little bit better at the end of the second and in the third.”
Next up for Goffin will be Canada’s Denis Shapovalov. Both de Minaur and Goffin was playing in their first round matches.
After three days of play, four out of the eight seeded players are remaining in this year’s draw.
(VIDEO) Novak Djokovic Makes Tearful Tribute To Mentor Kobe Bryant After Australian Open Win
The world No.2 pays his respect to ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’ on the Rod Laver Arena.
World No.2 Novak Djokovic shed tears following his quarter-final win over Milos Raonic after paying tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
The 16-time grand slam champion took to the Rod Laver Arena wearing a green zip-up top. On the top right of his jacket with Bryant’s initial along with the numbers 8 and 24. The jersey numbers Bryant worn throughout his 20-year NBA career with the LA Lakers. A love heart was also placed under the numbers on Djokovic’s top.
“’I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise.” An emotional Djokovic said during his on-court interview with John McEnroe on Tuesday.
‘He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, he inspired myself and many other people around the world. I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years.’
‘When I needed some advice and support, he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend, it’s just heartbreaking to see what has happened to him and his daughter. It’s unbelievable.’
Bryant was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. As an athlete, he achieved numerous milestones. Including being named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medallist and played in 18 All Star Games.
Just days before Bryant’s death, Djokovic spoke about their friendship during an interview with ESPN. Praising him for the support he received during his elbow injury and fall in the rankings during 2017 and the start of 2018. Reflecting on the conversations the two have had, he said he received some ‘valuable guidance.’
“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic told ESPN. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the Rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.”
Djokovic will play Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
The tribute can be watched below (from 00:30 to 01:40)
Dominic Thiem reaches his first quarter final at the Australian Open
Dominic Thiem eased past Gael Monfils 6-2 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 50 minutes on the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open. Thiem has extended his winning streak to 6-0 in his head-to-head matches against Monfils.
He fought back from two sets to one down to beat Australia’s Alex Bolt in the second round, but he won eight of his past nine sets to advance to the quarter finals.
Thiem got two breaks in the first set and never faced a single break point in the entire match. The Austrian player converted his fourth break point after three deuces, as Monfils missed a backhand volley wide. Thiem started the third set with an early break in the first game, as Monfils hit an inside-out forehand wide from the middle of the court wide. Thiem won his next service games and held his final game at love.
Thiem will face Rafael Nadal in a re-match of last year’s Roland Garros final.
“I think that I played my best match so far at this year’s Australian Open. It’s a very good feeling. The score looks way easier than the match was. I think I was lucky to make an early break in each set and I was managing to hold my serve well. I am so happy because I am in the quarter final here for the first time”, said Thiem.
Alexander Zverev tops Andrey Rublev to set Australian Open quarter final against Stan Wawrinka
Alexander Zverev beat his friend Andrey Rublev 6-4 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open for the first time in his career and his third at Grand Slam level.
Zverev broke serve once in each set. The German player has not dropped a set at this year’s edition of the Australian Open.
Zverev ended Rublev’s 15-match winning streak. Rublev had not lost a match since October, winning four matches at the Davis Cup last November and back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide.
In the opening set Zverev earned his first break at 3-3, as Rublev hit a forehand into the net. He held his serve to consolidate the break and wrapped up the first set after 29 minutes, when Rublev hit a crosscourt backhand wide.
Zverev started the second set with an immediate break in the first game of the second set and closed it out with a hold at love with an ace after 29 minutes.
Zverev broke serve for the third time in the match in the ninth game of the third set to take a 5-4, when Rublev made a groundstroke error, and sealed the win with a forehand volley.
“It feels amazing. I played some great matches against some great opponents. This is Andrey’s first loss of the season, having won two tournaments and getting through to the fourth round with unbelievable tennis. I have known Andrey since we were ten years old. I think he will be top 15, top 10 very soon. I am just happy and I hope I can continue”,said Zverev.
Zverev will face Stan Wawrinka in the quarter final. The German star beat Wawrinka twice in their previous two head-to-head matches in St. Petersburg 2016 and Miami 2017.
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