Djokovic beats Soeda to reach quarterfinals at Japan Open

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TOKYO — Coming off an injury, Novak Djokovic is confident his game is going in the right direction.

Djokovic needed only two sets and 95 minutes to defeat Japanese wild-card entry Go Soeda 6-3, 7-5 and reach the quarterfinals of the Japan Open on Wednesday.

Top-ranked Djokovic, who is attempting to win a title on his tournament debut for the 10th time, hit 10 aces and saved three of four break points.

Djokovic retired with a left-shoulder injury during his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka at the U.S. Open but showed no lingering effects in Tokyo.

In his first competitive match since facing Wawrinka, Djokovic was knocked out of the doubles with Filip Krajinovic on Monday but beat Alexei Popyrin in the first round of the singles on Tuesday.

After three matches in three days, Djokovic said he’s pleased with his progress.

“I probably played even on a higher level than the first round,” Djokovic said. “So the game is going in the right direction, that’s for sure. I’ve played three games in a row, the doubles on Monday then two straight singles matches back-to-back, so everything is fine.”

With Djokovic serving for the win, Soeda broke his opponent for the first time when Djokovic double-faulted to make it 5-4. But the top-ranked Serb broke Soeda for the fourth time in the final game.

“From the baseline, I was solid, aggressive when I needed to be and taking the ball early,” Djokovic said. “I served very well until that game when I was serving for the match at 5-3. I made some double-faults, I missed all my first serves, so I didn’t serve that well that game, allowing him to break back and come back to the match.

“But there were not too many negatives today, because I had chances constantly. I had match points at 5-4, but he just came up with some very good shots and fought hard and that’s why we give him credit. But from my side, I’m really pleased.”

Djokovic, who is 42-8 this season with three titles in four finals, has a day off Thursday. He faces Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals after the Frenchman beat Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1, 6-2.

Also, Yasutaka Uchiyama beat Radu Albot 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 and Reilly Opelka defeated Gilles Simon 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2).

Third-seeded David Goffin rallied to beat Pablo Carreno Busta 1-6, 7-6 (8), 6-0 to advance to the second round and next faces Denis Shapovalov.

Goffin is the lone former champion in the draw. He has made the final in both of his previous appearances, losing to Nick Kyrgios in the 2016 final before defeating Adrian Mannarino for the title in 2017.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.