Novak Djokovic made his return to tennis Monday at the relocated Cincinnati Masters played this year in New York. The world No. 1 got up a break early against the big underdog Ricardas Berankis and things looked good for the Serb. But the Lithuanian wouldn’t go away. He got back on serve, went up a break all while Djokovic struggled with a neck issue which forced him out of doubles and his serve let him down.
The Serb ground out the first then had to overcome another break deficit in the second to pull through a much tough-than-expected test against the qualifier.
“Hopefully it will not react with the inflammation after tonight’s match. We’ll do everything possible with the physio and then we’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Djokovic said about his neck.
“Well, it has bothered me… I made so many double faults , and he knew exactly where I’m going to serve. There were not many options for me because just the awkward situation I was in.
”But I managed somehow with the great help of Clay, ATP physiotherapist, who did his best to make sure I feel better. I tried to take one game at a time. He was striking the ball really well. He was playing super fast.”
While Djokovic survived, second seed Dominic Thiem tumbled to Filip Krajinovic meekly 6-2, 6-1. The Austrian who played 28 or so exhibitions matches, was listless against the Serb who collected his first Top 10 win in over 10 years, snapping a 16-match losing streak to the very best.
“I think I started really well today. I was aggressive and I’m really happy that I’m in the third round,” Krajinovic said “I don’t think Thiem was playing today good tennis, but I took the chance and I think I deserved to win.”
Thiem will have a week to find answers.
“It was just a horrible game by myself. Didn’t play well at all. Didn’t get any rhythm. I felt like I didn’t win any points on his serve,” Thiem said. “I had trouble with returning. It’s tough to understand right now, but, I will think about it and hopefully I’ll find better answers in the next days.”
Two-time champion Andy Murray pulled out the match of the day edging Alexander Zverev 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. The German served for the match at 5-4 in the third but wouldn’t win another game.
“I don’t think either of us played particularly well when we were close to the finishing line, but maybe to be expected since we haven’t played any matches for such a long period,” said Murray. “He didn’t serve so well at the end, which obviously helped me but I fought hard and it is a good effort to win that after not playing for a while.”
Murray will now get the big-serving Milos Raonic who eased past Dan Evans. Murray leads Raonic 9-3 including a Wimbledon title and a Cincinnati win.
“I have played him a lot. Huge serve. I saw a bit of the match today against Dan Evans. He is serving well, playing aggressive, which is when he plays his best,” said Murray.
“We have played each other in some big matches. We played at the US Open, Cincinnati, Wimbledon final, the Australian Open. He has had his injury struggles as well, so it is nice to see him back.”
Raonic’s countrymen both faltered with Denis Shapovalov getting upset by Jan-Lennard Struff and 56 unforced errors including 15 double faults did in Felix Auger-Aliassime who fell to Tennys Sandgren in a final set breaker.
Sandgren wasn’t the only American to pull out a deciding breaker, Serena did so on the women’s side and John Isner came from 4-2 down in his breaker to deny John Millman.
Matteo Berrettini and Roberto Bautista Agut were also winners. And Marton Fucsovics eliminated Grigor Dimitrov in three sets.
Tuesday also sees Bautista Agut against Khachanov, Isner taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas and Berrettini battling Reilly Opelka who ousted Diego Schwartzman.
Daniil Medvedev looked strong in his title defense opener as did his countryman Karen Khachanov.
CINCINNATI TUESDAY SCHEDULE
Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs. Aljaz Bedene (SLO)
Johanna Konta (GBR) vs. Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Not Before 3:30 pm
Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Tennys Sandgren (USA)
Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Milos Raonic (CAN)
Not Before 7:00 pm
Maria Sakkari (GRE) vs. Serena Williams (USA)
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