In his first appearance at the Erste Bank Open since his 2007 title run, Novak Djokovic finished an early test to defeat comrade Filip Krajinovic 7-6(6), 6-3 on Tuesday.
Djokovic dropped serve twice in the first set and had to spare set point at 5/6, preceding returning to procure his spot in the second round. The World No. 1, who struck 39 winners against Krajinovic, has now won 38 of his 40 matches this year.
“I was lucky in the first set… We are good friends, we train a lot [together] and it is never easy to play someone that you are very close to,” said Djokovic in an on-court interview. “He is a very nice guy and I have known him since he was very young. I followed him, I tried to be there as a friend, as a mentor. We go back a long way.
”We practised a few times [together] before coming to Vienna. The draw was tough for us to face each other, but there is always extra pressure and importance to a match when you play someone that you know very well.”
Djokovic added 45 FedEx ATP Rankings points to his count with his second ATP Head2Head triumph in three matches against Krajinovic. The Serbian is endeavoring to tie Pete Sampras’ record of six year-end World No. 1 completes this year.
Djokovic was seeking the first time since his runner-up finish at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). The 33-year-old will next face Borna Coric for a spot in the quarter-finals.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion possesses a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against Coric. The pair most recently met in the 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters last, which Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4. Coric acquired his spot in the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Taylor Fritz on Monday.
In a previously set that included four service breaks, Djokovic and Krajinovic engaged the group in Vienna with their all-court skills and attacking tennis. Krajinovic stepped up and hit his objectives to acquire set point at 6/5 in the tie-break, however Djokovic held firm with consistency from the standard to remove urgent blunders and procure a one-set lead.
Djokovic brought his game up in the second set and acquired an early break to assume responsibility for the match. The 2007 champion got back with depth and assaulted with his forehand to close the match in just under two hours.
“[In the] first set, I think he was the better player. He was serving for the first set and I was lucky. He missed a smash at 6/6 in the tie-break,” said Djokovic. “A few points here and there can change the momentum of the match. In the second set, I stepped it up, I played better and I am just pleased with the way I finished the match.”
Grigor Dimitrov progressed to the second round in Vienna for the second consecutive year with a 7-6(6), 6-3 triumph against Karen Khachanov. The Bulgarian changed over three of four break points against the two-time Vienna quarter-finalist to improve to 17-10 of every 2020.
“Karen is such an excellent player, such a heavy hitter,” said Dimitrov in an on-court interview. “In conditions like that, the court favours him quite a bit but I was able to just play a very solid game and take the right decisions at the right time.”
Hubert Hurkacz broke serve on four events to beat Attila Balazs of Hungary 6-3, 7-5. The 23-year-old will confront Lorenzo Sonego for a spot in the quarter-finals. The Italian saved every one of the four break points he looked to beat Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 6-3.
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