Djokovic Fights Through Acapulco Debut
The Serbian joins Nadal and del Potro in second round
Novak Djokovic shook off the rust and battled for more than 90 minutes to take his debut match at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco on Tuesday evening. The Serbian improved to 3-0 against Slovakian veteran Martin Klizan with a 6-3, 7-6(4) victory at the ATP World Tour 500 event.
“I wasn’t expecting an easy match, that’s for sure," Djokovic said. "I haven’t played an official tour match since Australia, one Davis Cup only.
"So I was looking forward to coming out on the court and playing ... I got Klizan in the first round, who’s well known for playing his best tennis on the big stage against the top players. He’s not afraid.
"Overall it was a good performance. It was a tough second set, up and down. It’s exactly what I needed in this moment to test myself and my game."
It was far from easy for the Serbian, who faced trouble often in the early goings. The World No. 2 had to save four break points during his first three service games, relying on his serves to help him dodge the breaks. Klizan would wince at the missed opportunities, especially when Djokovic converted his own break point for a 4-2 lead and later took the first set.
Klizan, a five-time ATP World Tour champion, didn't depart after the opener, though. The left-hander bludgeoned forehand after forehand and kept Djokovic off-balance by occasionally tossing in a forehand drop shot that Djokovic could often only watch drop inside the service box. Klizan would finish with 25 winners, nearly three times Djokovic's tally of nine. But the Slovakian also delivered 30 unforced errors, compared to Djokovic's 11.
In the second set, Klizan broke for 4-2 and it looked as if the match would head to a third set. But Djokovic broke back immediately and outplayed Klizan in the tie-break for the straight-sets win.
The contest was Djokovic's first tournament match since he fell in the second round of the Australian Open last month, his earliest exit Down Under since 2006 when the Serbian was ranked No. 76. Djokovic accepted a wild card into Acapulco last week. The 29 year old will meet Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who beat #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe in the second round.
"He deserved all the success he’s had, especially because the past couple of years he was not playing much because of injury," Djokovic said of the prospect of facing del Potro. "He brings excitement to tennis because he has a big game, a big serve. He’s somebody we can call a big-match player."
Marin Cilic earned his first win in Acapulco. The third seed knocked out Buenos Aires titlist Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. Cilic hit 14 aces and won more than 70 per cent of his service points during the 90-minute victory.
The 28-year-old Croatian had lost his opener last year to American Ryan Harrison. Cilic will meet countryman and #NextGenATP player Borna Coric in the second round.