Novak Djokovic charged past Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-4 at the Western & Southern Open on Tuesday to extend his unbeaten start to the year to 20 matches.
The World No. 1 won 84 per cent of first-serve points (26/31) and saved all four break points he faced to advance after 88 minutes. Djokovic is making his first appearance on the ATP Tour since clinching his fifth Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy in February. The Belgrade-native also led Team Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup title and captured a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown earlier this year.
Djokovic is chasing his second trophy at this ATP Masters 1000 event this week. Two years ago, he became the first singles player to complete the Career Golden Masters by winning the Western & Southern Open for the first time. If Djokovic lifts the title, he will equal Rafael Nadal’s record haul of 35 Masters 1000 crowns.
Djokovic improves to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against Sandgren, with two of those wins coming at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The Serbian also beat Sandgren in four sets en route to the 2018 US Open title.
The five-time year-end World No. 1 made a quick start on Grandstand, breaking Sandgren’s serve in the opening game by moving up the court and playing with consistent depth from the baseline to force errors. Djokovic dictated rallies with his backhand to claim a second break at 4-2, before holding serve for a one-set lead.
Djokovic used his backhand to attack Sandgren’s forehand and earn a third break of serve at the start of the second set. After failing to convert five match points at 5-3, Djokovic held serve to love with a forehand winner to confirm his place in the last eight.
Djokovic will face Jan-Lennard Struff for a semi-final spot in New York. The 33-year-old is unbeaten in three ATP Head2Head contests against Struff.
Struff broke new ground early Tuesday afternoon when the 30-year-old beat 2019 finalist David Goffin 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
“It was a tough one, very close one again. The conditions were very hot again. Yesterday I thought it was a bit worse, the conditions, but David is a very tough player,” said Struff, who narrowed his ATP Head2Head deficit against the Belgian to 2-3. “I had some chances, he had some chances… the last game was really good.”
A Day In The Life Of Jan-Lennard Struff
The German powered past the seventh seed in two hours and nine minutes with a devastating final game of all-out attack. Struff hit 35 winners, including a bludgeoned forehand return on his first match point. It is the World No. 34’s eighth Top 10 victory, with six of those coming since the start of last season. He has won seven of his past 15 matches against the elite group.
”I played some good tennis early on [against Top 10 players] as well, but I lost the matches most of the time,” Struff said. “That gave me a bit of experience how it is to be on court with them… I played good tennis [today] and I’m very happy to get another Top 10 win.”
Djokovic has only lost a set in five of his 20 matches this season. One of those was in the first round of the Australian Open against Struff.
“It will be very nice. I played him at the Australian Open, which was a very good match, I think, a very good match for me,” Struff said. “I would love to play him again.”