Djokovic rolls into Western & Southern Open quarterfinals

New York, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open with a relatively routine 6-2, 6-4 victory Tuesday afternoon over American Tennys Sandgren.

In a behind-closed-doors match played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the New York City borough of Queens, Djokovic was closer to his best form than in his opening match on Monday, when he also was dealing with a neck issue.

After a surprisingly competitive 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 victory over Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in the second round, Djokovic broke Sandgren in the opening game of their third-round contest and secured a second service break in the seventh game en route to an easy first-set win.

The second set started in similar fashion, with the 17-time Grand Slam champion breaking his opponent’s serve in the opening game by repeatedly winning points on Sandgren’s second delivery.

After both players held their serves comfortably over the next six games, Djokovic stepped up to the service line leading 4-3 and proceeded to drop three straight points to fall behind 0-40.

The Serbian great, however, righted the ship in time, saving the first break point with a volley winner and later clinching the game with another full-stretch drop volley that Sandgren was unable to track down.

He then had a whopping five match points in the ensuing game but was unable to convert any of them. On the fourth of those chances, Sandgren stayed alive in the baseline rally with some remarkable defense and won the point when an attempt at a forehand winner by Djokovic ended up in the net.

The Serb, however, shook off those missed opportunities and calmly held serve at love in the final game, wrapping up the victory with an inside-out forehand winner.

“I’m as close to (being) painless (in my) neck as I can be,” Djokovic was quoted as saying after Tuesday’s win on the ATP World Tour’s website. “I’m feeling very good, and that has obviously positively reflected on my game today.”

The 33-year-old world No. 1 has now run his record in the coronavirus-interrupted 2020 season to 20-0, with seven of those wins coming in his run to an unprecedented eighth Australian Open men’s singles title in late January and early February.

Next up for Djokovic in Wednesday’s quarterfinals will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, who pulled off his second straight upset of a seeded player by defeating seventh-seeded Belgian David Goffin 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 on Tuesday.

On Monday, Struff edged 12th-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4.

Although there is no tougher test in tennis than a hard-court match-up against Djokovic, the 34th-ranked Struff said he is ready for the challenge.

“It will be very nice. I played him (in the first round of) the (the 2020) Australian Open, which was a very good match, I think. A very good match for me,” Struff was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour’s website. “I would love to play him again.”

In other men’s singles action on Tuesday, third-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev, the 2019 US Open runner-up, cruised past Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal match-up against eighth-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut, who rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory Tuesday over 11th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov.

American Reilly Opelka upset sixth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) on Tuesday and will next take on either fellow big-serving countryman John Isner or fourth-seeded Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In women’s singles action on Tuesday, 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka, the No. 4 seed, routed promising 20-year-old Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 6-3, 6-1 to advance to a quarterfinal clash against 12th-seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit.

Two other women’s quarterfinals also are set, with former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka to take on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur and 14th-seeded Belgian Elise Mertens to square off against American Jessica Pegula.

The final quarterfinal match will pit the United Kingdom’s Johanna Konta, the No. 8 seed, against either American great Serena Williams or Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who are scheduled to play on Tuesday night.

The Western & Southern Open is normally played just outside Cincinnati, Ohio, but in order to reduce unnecessary travel amid the coronavirus pandemic it is being held this year at the same venue as the US Open, a hard-court Grand Slam event that gets under way on Aug. 31. EFE-EPA

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