Novak Djokovic drops a set but comes through for his entry into contention at Indian Wells

Novak Djokovic drops a set but comes through for his entry into contention at Indian Wells

It was sometimes sluggish, and that’s quite logical after six weeks without competition, but Novak Djokovic provided the essentials for his entry into contention at the Masters 1000 in Indian Wells on Saturday. For his first match since his elimination in the semi-finals of the Australian Open against Jannik Sinner (6-1, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3), the world number 1 overcame the Australian Aleksandar Vukic, combative 69th in the world who sold his skin dearly before finally surrendering with a high backhand volley (6-2, 5-7, 6-3).

“It feels good to come back here, after five years, with a victory,” commented the Serbian, back in the “tennis paradise” for the first time since 2019. I had a lot of fun in a beautiful stadium and a great atmosphere. » Clearly superior in the first set, the 36-year-old experienced a much more turbulent second round. Faced with an opponent determined to push him, “Nole” sometimes seemed to lack rhythm. At the first drop in intensity, he was broken. “I started well, but he increased his level and I lost the momentum a little,” he observed.

“At one point I was a little worried. I had lost a set, the start of the third was very even. He forced me to make big shots in important moments to get by.”

Although he came back from 3-0 to 3-3, the man with 24 Grand Slam crowns remained on a tightrope throughout the set, until giving in at 6-5 on a magnificent winning forehand return. from Vukic even though he had served a second ball at 198 km/h. “At one point, I was a little worried,” he admitted. I had lost a set, the start of the third was very even. The level of play was good, with some very good points. He served very well, sent huge forehands. He deserved to be in the match. I told myself that the opportunities would eventually arrive. »

400

This is Novak Djokovic’s 400th Masters 1000 victory. The Serbian is the second player in history to reach this mark. Only Rafael Nadal does better than him with 406 successes in this category of tournaments.

His break at 2-2 in the third set freed him. The five-time winner of the Californian Masters 1000 then unfolded. “He forced me to make big shots in important moments to get by,” he explained. I could have done some things better, obviously. I hadn’t played in over five weeks. I hope I’m a little less rusty after this match. »

In the next round, Monday, he will face the Italian lucky loser Luca Nardi, 123rd in the world.

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