Cincinnati, Aug 17: In his first match in Cincinnati since 2019, and his first tour-level appearance since the Wimbledon final, world no. 2 Novak Djokovic made a winning start as he won a 6-4 opening set against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina before the Spaniard retired in the first game of the second set
It was the pair’s fifth duel and Djokovic improved to 4-1 in his ATP head-to-head against Fokina with the retirement. The Serbian, who won the Western & Southern Open in 2018 and 2020 (when it was held in New York), will next meet Gael Monfils on Thursday.
“It’s never the way you like to win, I think for the crowd as well. Coming in, they expect to see a battle, they expect to see a match. Of course, it’s great for me to be able to come back to the court and win a match. Obviously mixed emotions with the way it finished. Nevertheless, I’m hoping that I can build my form day to day and progress through the tournament by raising the level,” Djokovic said.
Fokina left the court for a medical timeout late in the first set to deal with a back problem, then retired early in the second due to the injury with 46 minutes on the match clock.
After a scrappy start in which Djokovic saved two early break points, the Serbian began to find his footing against the Toronto semi-finalist to take charge of the baseline rallies. Fokina left the court for treatment at 3-4 before the final three games of the set all went against serve.
Now 48/1 in his opening rounds since the start of the 2019 season, Djokovic will next bid to extend his perfect 18-0 tour-level record against Monfils in the Round of 16.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner is playing in the US for the first time since losing in the 2021 US Open final as he has been unable to enter the US due to vaccine protocols that required international travellers to be vaccinated against Covid-19