NEW YORK — Only a dozen unforced errors. Every shot crisp in windy conditions. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic had all parts of his game working Wednesday while advancing to the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open.
Djokovic had no problems with his creaky neck or the swirling winds during a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff that was by far his best showing of the week.
So far, no rust at all after the long layoff from competitive tennis.
“Everything was worked on in the last six months, I had plenty of time,” Djokovic said. “I worked on every single thing. It’s great it’s paying off so early after the break.”
Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibition matches he organized in Serbia and Croatia in June with no social distancing.
In his match Monday against Ricardas Berankis, Djokovic had his sore neck massaged twice by a trainer during a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory that included seven double faults. The neck has gotten better, and so has his overall game.
“Right now it’s not a concern,” he said. “It’s still not 100% but it’s close to that. I’ve been gaining more range in my movement of the neck every single day, so no complaints.”
In the semifinals, he’ll face Roberto Bautista Agut, who knocked out defending champion Daniil Medvedev earlier in the day.
Medvedev failed to close it out in the second set, and Bautista Agut rallied for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory that eliminated yet another top player out of the tune-up tournament for the U.S. Open. Djokovic is the only player left in the tournament with an ATP Masters 1000 title to his credit.
Medvedev led 4-3 in the second before letting it slip away. He converted only five of 20 break points in the match and swatted his racket against the court in frustration at the end.
“Even in the third set I had my chances and didn’t take them,” Medvedev said.
Bautista Agut reached his third Masters semifinal and his first since 2016. He needed a set to adjust to the breezy, cooler conditions on court.
“It’s never easy to come back and play good at first,” he said. “I have to be patient, to try to enjoy every single match I play here after six months without competing. Just pleased and happy to be in the semifinals.”
Medvedev hoisted the champion’s Rookwood Pottery cup last year in Mason, Ohio, where the tournament is held annually. This year’s event was moved to the U.S. Open site in Flushing Meadows because of pandemic precautions, creating a two-tournament event without spectators.
On the women’s side, fourth-seeded Naomi Osaka beat No. 12 Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, reaching the semifinals as the only Top 10 player left in the bracket. She’ll play No. 14 Elise Mertens, who beat 83rd-ranked Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-3.
Already down one set, Osaka had her serve broken early in the second, then won six games in a row to gain momentum.
“For the first set and honestly a couple games in the second, I was just really being down on myself and being negative,” Osaka said. “If I had to lose a match, I didn’t want to lose a match on that note. I just tried to be more positive and pump myself up.
“I just came back from six months (off) and the third match and I was already being negative, which is something I hope I can change.”