Djokovic enjoys stress-free win in US return at Cincinnati

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.

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