Slow Start, Fast Finish As Novak Tops Mannarino
Djokovic, who needs the Cincinnati title to complete his set of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies, advanced after two hours and six minutes, breaking five times en route to victory. The former World No. 1 has reached the championship match on five occasions.
Djokovic said the dream of finally winning the tournament to complete his set of Masters 1000 titles helped, not hindered, his progress. “I think it adds more to the motivation rather than pressure," the 30-time Masters 1000 champion said. "I really want to win this tournament, and I have been trying. I'm still in the tournament this year, and hopefully I can get a shot at the title.
“But I need to definitely play better than I have in the first couple matches. I have been training a lot and trying to find the game and the level of tennis that I want to be on. I am motivated to get far in this tournament, without a doubt.”
Djokovic called for the doctor while leading at 5-2 in the second set and said after the match that he had an upset stomach. “I wasn't feeling well. I didn't have a great night and wasn't feeling that well for the first set and a half. I kind of made it through, and with the help of the doctor and God (smiling) I'm just happy that I managed to overcome the challenge.
“Credit to him playing well in the first set, but I wasn't myself. On the court I had difficulty moving around and just hitting the ball, making a lot of unforced errors. The second part of the second set and third set it was already much better. I will try to take that into next match.”
World No. 28 Mannarino was aiming to record his first Top 10 victory of the season. The Antalya finalist reached a career-high No. 22 in the ATP Rankings on 19 March.
The four-time Wimbledon champion will meet Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. The defending champion beat German Mischa Zverev 7-6(5), 7-5. Dimitrov, who trails Djokovic 1-8 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, won 64 per cent of his second-serve points against Zverev.
Anderson recorded his 33rd tour-level win of the season after one hour and 32 minutes, winning 95 per cent of first-serve points en route to victory. The South African also reached the third round in 2015 (l. to Federer) and 2016 (l. to Murray). Anderson will face No. 11 seed David Goffin for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Goffin notched his second victory over Benoit Paire in five FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters after two hours and 20 minutes, recovering from a set down to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. The Belgian withstood 17 aces from the Frenchman and saved nine of 12 break points.