World number one Novak Djokovic battled through neck pain on the way to a 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 victory over Ricardas Berankis at the Western & Southern Open, where second seed Dominic Thiem crashed out.
Djokovic, who pulled out of doubles with a sore neck on Sunday, made it through to the round of 16 despite the ailment, for which he received treatment on court.
“It’s getting better,” he said after the 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 win. “It’s been four days. It’s not yet where I’d like it to be but it’s heading in the right direction.”
That’s good news with the US Open starting on August 31 on the same New York hardcourts hosting this week’s tournament, which was moved from Cincinnati to establish a quarantine bubble for the upcoming Grand Slam.
Djokovic twice went down a break in the second set, but broke back both times. He let out a roar when he broke for a 5-4 lead then calmly served it out.
He next faces American Tennys Sandgren, a 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) winner over 15th-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The upset of the day was at the opposite end of the men’s draw, as 32nd-ranked Filip Krajinovic of Serbia toppled Austria’s Thiem 6-2, 6-1.
“I think I started really well today. I was aggressive and I’m really happy that I’m in the third round,” said 32nd-ranked Krajinovic, who dropped just two service points on the way to victory.
Thiem, who pushed Djokovic to five sets in an Australian Open runner-up finish in January, couldn’t find his rhythm in his first match since the ATP tour resumed after a five-month coronavirus hiatus.
“It was just a horrible game by myself,” Thiem said. Didn’t play well at all, didn’t get any rhythm. “I had really troubles with returning.”
Krajinovic lined up a meeting with Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who ousted 14th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.
Former world number one Andy Murray also notched an upset, surprising world number seven Alexander Zverev 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 for his first win over a top-10 player in more than three years.—AFP