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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic delivered dynamic all-court tennis dismissing Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-4 to improve his 2020 record to a perfect 20-0.

Photo credit: @CincyTennis Western & Southern Open

Tennys Sandgren’s racquet face bore the Wilson logo rather than a bulls-eye, but Novak Djokovic still drilled the sweet spot knocking it right out of his hands.

A dialed-in Djokovic disarmed Sandgren with precision powering to a 6-2, 6-4 triumph to charge into the Western & Southern Open quarterfinals for the 10th time.

Djokovic: NTC Courts Playing Faster 

The world No. 1 raised his 2020 record to a perfect 20-0 extending his winning streak to 23 matches dating back to the Davis Cup Finals last November.

Djokovic delivered dynamic all-court tennis against the strong-willed Sandgren.

Continuing his quest for his 80th career title, Djokovic broke to start both sets, denied all four break points he faced and stamped four love holds, including three straight shutout holds to close an impressive performance. Showing front-court finesse, Djokovic won all 10 trips to the net including carving out a slick volley winner that helped him dug out of a triple break point hole midway through the second set.

“Crucial volley at love-40, I managed to dig that one out,” Djokovic told ESPN’s Brad Gilbert afterward. “It was pretty low. I was not in a great position. I somehow managed to hit the ball at a perfect angle. I got myself out of big trouble there from love-40 down and made a crucial save.

"All in all it was just a great performance. I felt better, I played better than last night. All is going in the right direction.”

Sporting a mask made by his wife, Jelena, as he walked out onto court, Djokovic set an oppressive tone from the start.

Sandgren opened with a 40-15 lead only to see the top seed roar back breaking to open the match.

Showing no signs of the neck strain that compelled him to call for treatment from the trainer in his opening-round win over Ricardas Berankis last night, Djokovic stamped a speedy love hold to back up the break.

The American adopted more assertive court positioning in his 6-7(4), 6-2, 7-6(5) win over 15th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime in round two.

Today, the depth of Djokovic’s drives pushed Sandgren back further behind the baseline and the Serbian’s sharper angles forced him into countering on the run.

The eight-time Australian Open champion dragged Sandgren forward with the short slice then rifled a two-handed pass crosscourt setting up a smash that saw Djokovic knock the Wilson Blade clean out of his opponent’s hand for break point. Coaxing an errant backhand, Djokovic took a double-break 5-2 lead after 26 minutes of play.

Djokovic dodged a break point serving out the 34-minute first set that saw him serve 56 percent, win 12 of 15 first-serve points and persistently punish the American’s second serve.

"I actually practiced in the last week during the day mostly it took me a little bit of time to get used to the lights and everything, and adjust to the speed of the court, the bounce of the ball last night," Djokovic said. "Obviously, two different opponents Berankis plays very close to the line plays very flat and deep very quick so he doesn’t give you much time.

"Tennys today gave me slightly more time than Ricardas, which obviously allowed me to adjust to the ball nicely. Thought I served well, but still I can get better rhythm. But the neck is doing well. All is positive."

Tennis Express

Just as he had in opening set, Djokovic started the second set rallying from 40-15 down to score his third break of the day.

An hour into the match, the scrappy Sandgren earned triple break point. Djokovic scraped out a fine low forehand volley off the service line to save the first break point, drew a floated error to deny the second and dotted the corners with drives to erase the third set capping his toughest hold of the afternoon.

Exhibiting exemplary volleying, Djokovic carved out a drop volley—he was 10 for 10 at net to that point—earning a second match point in the ninth game.

A stubborn Sandgren saved it only to see Djokovic pierce both the baseline and sideline with a strike that left the American smiling in acknowledgement.

The 55th-ranked Sandgren dug in and battled with vigor denying five match points fighting through a near 11-minute hold to force Djokovic to serve it out.

On his sixth match point, Djokovic whipped the wide kicker then drilled a diagonal forehand winner to wrap a pristine 88-minute victory with an extended version of his heart-sharing celebration.

The 2018 W&S Open champion advanced to his 84th career Masters 1000 quarterfinal—third all time behind Rafael Nadal (92) and Roger Federer (84)—where he will face big-serving German Jan-Lennard Struff.

Struff smacked 12 aces stopping seventh-seeded David Goffin 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Djokovic is 3-0 lifetime vs. the 34th-ranked German, including a four-set win in the Australian Open first round in January.

“Three different opponents for me: Ricardas is not very tall so he just stays very low, plays flat, deep, very quick, doesn’t give up the baseline,” Djokovic said. “Tennys is an all-around player, moves well and has a good serve and forehand is aggressive, comes to net.

"Then you have Struff who has one of the biggest serves on the tour. So the return is going to the key for me and also trying to hold my serve as best as I can.”

Earlier, defending champion Daniil Medvedev looked sharp dismissing qualifier Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-3.

The third-seeded Russian will meet Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut, the man Andy Murray calls the most underrated player on the ATP, for a semifinal spot.


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