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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, September 29, 2022

 
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Top-seeded Novak Djokovic won seven straight games sparking a 6-0, 6-3 sweep of Pablo Andujar in Tel Aviv.

Photo credit: Tel Aviv Watergen Open Facebook

Absence from tournament tennis adrenalizes Novak Djokovic.

Mixing deep drives with devious drop shots, Djokovic tore through seven straight games in a 6-0, 6-3 dissection of Pablo Andujar in his Tel Aviv Watergen Open opener today.

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Showing no signs of the wrist issue that bothered him in his Laver Cup loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday, Djokovic dispensed dominance in a commanding performance of power and precision.

 



Djokovic won the final three games snapping a four-match losing streak to Spanish opponents in improving to 25-6 on the season.

After the unvaccinated Djokovic was unable to gain entry to North America to play the US Open Series or US Open, he hit the practice court before returning at Laver Cup last weekend where he won two of three matches.

Exhorted by a wildly supportive Tel Aviv crowd tonight, Djokovic was right back where he wanted to be on court.

"I like the court, it's very intimate, it's very loud and the crowd here is very passionate about tennis," Djokovic said in his on-court interview. "I'm really happy to be here and to perform in front of you so thank you for your support.

"The first match started off in a perfect way for me. I won seven games in a row and we were fighting in that eighth game for 15 minutes. I think it was one of the longest games I ever played in my life and I played many many games in my life. Credit to Pablo for fighting and for playing a great match as well. In the second set it was even up to 4-3 and then I managed to break his serve, stay solid, stay focused and close out the match very well. All in all very very happy with my performance and hopefully I can keep going the same way tomorrow."

Fast court coverage, a fierce first serve and stinging ground strokes empowered Djokovic throughout the match. Djokovic served 66 percent, pumped 8 aces against no double faults, won 22 of 27 first-serve points and did not face a break point.

In a statement start, Djokovic showed his skill for the kill shot.

The top seed capped a crackling crosscourt forehand exchange blasting a backhand winner crosscourt to seal the first game with a bang.

Predatory court positioning and menacing power separated Djokovic in this match.

Crowding the baseline, Djokovic shrunk Andujar's response time in rallies. The 35-year-old Serbian fired a forehand winner down the line breaking for 2-0.

Unrelenting deep Djokovic drives rattled out errors for a second straight break and a 4-0 lead.

Imposing his entire all-court attack, Djokovic carved out some brilliant drop volleys tonight. Attacking behind a slice backhand approach, Djokovic was backpedaling when he sifted an audacious forehand drop volley for his first set point. Digging in, Andujar saved it and a second set point. Djokovic broke down the Spaniard from the baseline dispensing the bagel in 29 minutes.

A streaking Djokovic slashed successive aces in a strong hold to start the second set. By then, Djokovic had won 16 of 19 points played on his serve.




Desperate to stop the bleeding, Andujar was digging deep, throwing everything at the sharp Serbian. When Andujar earned game point in the second game he raised an index finger in the air signifying one point away from his first game. Tel Aviv fans were roaring in support, but Djokovic dabbed a slick drop volley to deny game point.

Credit the stubborn Spaniard for his commitment to the cause. Surviving a near 22-minute game, Andujar hit a biting serve down the middle to convert his eighth game point and finally get on the board after 58 minutes.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion kept right on rolling and the toll of hanging tough caught up to Andujar in the eighth game.

The Spaniard spit up a double fault to face a break point in the eighth game. Sprinting up to a drop shot, Djokovic slid a slice backhand down the line breaking for 5-3.

On his third match point, Djokovic pumped a service winner out wide wrapping a comprehensive one hour, 26-minute conquest.

Djokovic will face good buddy Vasek Pospisil tomorrow for a semifinal spot. Lucky loser Pospisil won six of the last seven games defeating Israeli qualifier Edan Lesham 6-3, 6-2.

"I'm pleased that I was challenged in the second set, it was really competitive and I'm looking forward to the next one," Djokovic said. "I missed tennis. I haven't played in a competitive tournament for three months so thank you guys for making it special for me tonight. I really appreciate it."

 

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