After pulling out of the US Open due to a shoulder injury, world number one Novak Djokovic showed a steady recovery by defeating an Australian challenger at the Japan Open on Tuesday (October 1) at Ariake Colosseum, Tokyo.
The Serbian claimed a 6-4, 6-2 victory against the 20-year-old Alexei Popyrin, who mixed big serves with delicate drop shots to stage courageous offensives.
This is the first time Djokovic is taking part in a Japanese competition. He kept his calm and tried to stay a step ahead of Popyrin, never giving the rival a breakpoint by breaking it once in the first set and twice in the second set.
The 32-year-old Djokovic nailed seven aces, against Popyrin’s eight and managed to win points on 84 percent of his successful first serves.
He clinched the 90-minute long match by winning straight final five games.
It was Djokovic’s first singles competition since he withdrew from his US Open fourth-round match against Swiss Stan Wawrinka due to a left shoulder injury.
As he prepared to take on the singles tournament, Djokovic played and lost a doubles match here on Monday and said his shoulder felt “fine”.
Wawrinka decided not to participate in the Tokyo tournament due to injuries. Djokovic was marking his 271st week as the world’s number one, claiming the title of the third longest weeks in the top spot, and passing the record of American great Ivan Lendle.
The Serbian is now chasing Pete Sampras with 286 weeks, and Roger Federer with 310 weeks.
In the rest of the Tokyo tournament, Japanese wild card Taro Daniel, ranked 127, pulled off an upset victory against second-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia, ranked 14th, with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7/5) win in a grueling match that stretched over two hours and 30 minutes.
Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama defeated French fourth-seed Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-2.
Reilly Opelka of the US defeated his countryman seventh-seed Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-4.
Frenchman Gilles Simon cruised by Spanish qualifier Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-0.
(With inputs from agencies)