Pain within the neck: Djokovic wins post-hiatus debut; Keys out

New York, August 25

Bothered by a foul neck {that a} coach massaged twice, Novak Djokovic double-faulted seven instances and trailed by a break in every set earlier than avoiding the rash of upsets on the Western & Southern Open by taking the final 4 video games for a 7-6(2) 6-Four victory over Ricardas Berankis.

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic was taking part in his first ATP match in six months due to the coronavirus pandemic. He pulled out of the doubles occasion Sunday due to his neck.

“I’m trying to deal with it on a daily basis,” he stated.

“It’s been like that for the past three or four days.”

Still, Djokovic improved to 19-Zero in 2020 as he prepares to hunt a sixth title from the previous eight Grand Slam tournaments when the US Open begins in per week. That main championship’s web site in Flushing Meadows is internet hosting the Ohio-based Western & Southern Open, too, as a part of an uncommon doubleheader with no spectators.

Djokovic bought by, though he was wincing and stretching his neck between factors, then wound up laying on his again — a medical masks and protecting glasses on his face — whereas having his neck manipulated after the primary set.

While the excursions had been shut down, Djokovic examined optimistic for COVID-19 in June after a collection of no-social-distancing exhibition matches he organised in Serbia and Croatia.

As tennis ramps up — that is the primary event of the resumption for the lads; the ladies returned earlier this month — there was a bunch of surprises, together with defending girls’s champion Madison Keys’ 6-Four 6-1 departure in opposition to Ons Jabeur in an hour Monday night time.

Earlier, No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem, a three-time main finalist, wasn’t rather more aggressive in a 6-2 6-1 loss to Filip Krajinovic, and No. 5 Alexander Zverev hit 11 double-faults — 5 over his final two service video games — whereas being overwhelmed by Andy Murray 6-Three 3-6 7-5.

Like Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka emerged with tough wins, whereas two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, the No. 6 seed, misplaced. Each of the highest two girls’s seeds, Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin, had been overwhelmed Sunday.

Djokovic now meets American Tennys Sandgren, a 6-7 (4) 6-2 7-6 (5) winner over No. 15 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who gathered 15 double-faults. Another American, Reilly Opelka, eradicated No. 9 seed Diego Schwartzman 6-Three 7-6 (4).

Her yells of “Come on!” filling an almost empty stadium, Williams was pushed to the brink in her longest match since 2012 earlier than pulling away with an ideal tiebreaker and edging Arantxa Rus 7-6(6) 3-6 7-6 (0).

“I had a crowd in my head or something,” Williams stated with fun.

“For me, it was like there was a crowd there.”

Rus is a Dutch qualifier ranked No. 72 whose flat, left-handed strokes from the baseline gave Williams some bother. Williams dropped 4 video games in a row within the second set, then did so once more within the third, when she fell behind 6-5.

Rus served for the match there and, at deuce, was two factors from victory.

She would not win one other level.

Showing the strokes and grit that carried her to 23 Grand Slam titles — in opposition to an opponent who has by no means gained a lot as one tour-level singles title of any kind — Williams ran away with it, ending the 2-hour, 48-minute match with a forehand, celebrating most factors with a yell and a clenched left fist.

Williams hadn’t spent that a lot time on a courtroom because the 2012 French Open, when she misplaced within the first spherical to Virginie Razzano in Three hours, Three minutes. That was Williams’ solely profession first-round exit at a Grand Slam event.

“I did hit a wall today in the second set, I was so hot. That never happens,” the 38-year-old American stated.

“So I think physically, I’m fit. Tennis is mental. You know, it’s all mental.”

She moved into the third spherical thanks partially to 14 aces, one at 121 mph. Osaka used 12 aces to get by means of 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 in opposition to Karolina Muchova.

Next for Williams is No. 13 Maria Sakkari, who’s Greek and figured it’d work to her benefit to have a quiet setting in New York. If there have been the standard crowd of hundreds when Williams performs, Sakkari calculated, the followers’ help would break down alongside these traces: “99% with her, 1% with me.” AP

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