MASON - Novak Djokovic enjoyed a stress-free return to U.S. competition following a two year absence, after second-round opponent Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was forced to retire after dropping the first set 6-4 at the Cincinnati Open.
Djokovic has not competed in the United States since the 2021 U.S. Open final and was subsequently denied entry into the country because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. He was far from his best in his 46 minutes of action, facing break points at 1-1 before serving his way out of trouble. Davidovich Fokina took a medical timeout away from the court to tend to a lower back issue while trailing 3-4 and when he returned his movement was limited and he was broken at love.
Handed the opportunity to serve out the set against the ailing Spaniard, Djokovic played an uncharacteristically sloppy game, dumping a forehand into the net to hand the break back. But the 23-time major winner recovered, flicking a forehand crosscourt passing shot in the next game to capture the opener.
In the first game of the second set, Davidovich Fokina took a step that further aggravated his back injury and soon after walked to the net to shake hands with Djokovic. “It’s great for me to be able to come back to the court and to win a match but obviously mixed emotions with the way it finished,” said Djokovic. “Nevertheless I’m hoping I can build my form day to day and progress through the tournament raising my level.”
Up next, Djokovic is meeting with the resurgent Gael Monfils, who beat Alex de Minaur in straight sets earlier in the day. “He’s an amazing guy, someone I truly respect and like a lot as a person,” said Djokovic, who holds an astounding 18-0 record against the Frenchman.
Earlier, Serbian Dusan Lajovic upset world number six Jannik Sinner 6-4 7-6(4) to reach the third round. The 66th-ranked Lajovic struck 20 winners in a confident performance to claim his fourth win over a top-10 player this year and next faces American Taylor Fritz, who comfortably beat Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 7-6(1). Sinner earned his first Masters 1,000 title days ago in Toronto but was unable to keep the momentum alive, failing to convert any of the five break point chances he had across the match.
Daniil Medvedev cruised past Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti 6-3 6-2, breaking the Italian twice in each set and winning 82% of his first-serve points en route to victory in 77 minutes. Australian Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas dropped only three first-serve points to beat American Blake Shelton 7-6(3) 7-6(2) and set up a meeting with Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who ended Borna Coric’s title defence. In the final match of the day, veteran Swiss Stan Wawrinka turned back the clock to overpower American 16th seed Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-4.