October 1, 2019 9:49:26 pm
World number one Novak Djokovic blasted past qualifier Alexei Popyrin 6-4 6-2 on Tuesday to reach the second round of the Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.
Playing in his first singles match since retiring from his US Open fourth-round match with Stan Wawrinka due to a left shoulder issue, the Serb showed he was fighting fit as he fired seven aces and won 84% of points on his first serve.
“Shoulder is good. I have not felt anything in the previous days, including today, in the match,” Djokovic said. “So I am very pleased to say that and to feel healthy.
“I thought from the beginning to the end, I played really well and on a consistent, high level and (with) good intensity.”
Djokovic, now into his 271st week at number one having passed Ivan Lendl (270) for third place in the all-time list, takes on local favourite Go Soeda in the next round.
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov fired 16 aces in a straight sets victory over Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic, winning 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 21 minutes.
The 20-year-old did not drop serve and needed only two break points to move into the last 16.
Japanese wildcard Taro Daniel stunned second seed Borna Coric 6-4 4-6 7-6(5), while compatriot Yasutaka Uchiyama took down French fourth seed Benoit Paire 6-2 6-2.
Seventh seed Taylor Fritz fell 6-3 6-4 to fellow American Reilly Opelka, while Radu Albot and Gilles Simon advanced.
Barty, Osaka ease into China Open last 16, Kerber knocked out
Top seeds Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka cruised into the last 16 of the China Open with straight sets victories in their second round matches in Beijing on Tuesday.
World number one Barty, who received a bye into the second round, started her campaign with a 6-4 6-2 win over Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, wrapping up the contest in 75 minutes.
Barty fired seven aces, converted four of nine break points and smashed 23 winners in a clinical display which she said was enough to get the job done.
“It was solid today without being fantastic,” Barty said. “It was what we needed to do today. There were times where it was pretty good and there were times where it was challenging.
“It’s a court that I think is tough to neutralize and play defence over a long period. It’s definitely a court that you get your bang for buck and you get value when you try to take the initiative.”
Japan’s Osaka, seeded fourth, needed only 59 minutes to brush aside German qualifier Andrea Petkovic with a dominant 6-2 6-0 win.
Osaka converted five break points and fired 21 winners in a one-sided contest to set up a clash with American Alison Riske, who beat Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3 3-6 6-4 in the only three-set match of the day.
Angelique Kerber’s poor form dragged on after another early exit at the hands of Slovenia’s Polona Hercog who won 6-4 6-2.
Apart from a semi-final run in Osaka, 10th seed Kerber has not moved past the second round of tournaments in Zhengzhou, Wuhan and now Beijing.
China’s Zheng Saisai converted five of six break points to beat former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens 6-3 6-1 in 76 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with Barty.
Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova beat France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-4 but 12th seed Aryna Sabalenka, who won the Wuhan Open title over the weekend was knocked out by Russia’s unseeded Daria Kasatkina 6-4 7-6(5).
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