Djokovic Advances After Davidovich Fokina Retires In Cincinnati

Serbian will next meet fellow 36-year-old Monfils on Thursday

In his first match in Cincinnati since 2019, and his first tour-level appearance since the Wimbledon final, Novak Djokovic won a 6-4 opening set against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina before the Spaniard retired in the first game of the second set.

Djokovic, who won the Western & Southern Open in 2018 and in 2020 (when it was held in New York), will next meet Gael Monfils on Thursday.

Davidovich Fokina left the court for a medical timeout late in the first set to deal with a back problem, then retired early in the second due to the injury with 46 minutes on the match clock.

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"I hope Alejandro bounces back to the court quickly, recovers from his lower back injury, that's what he told me at the net," Djokovic said post-match.

"It's never the way you like to win, I think for the crowd as well. Coming in, they expect to see a battle, they expect to see a match. Of course it's great for me to be able to come back to the court and win a match. Obviously mixed emotions with the way it finished. Nevertheless, I'm hoping that I can build my form day to day and progress through the tournament with raising the level."

After a scrappy start in which Djokovic saved two early break points, the Serbian began to find his footing against the Toronto semi-finalist to take charge of the baseline rallies. Davidovich Fokina left the court for treatment at 3-4, before the final three games of the set all went against serve.

Now 48-1 in his opening rounds since the start of the 2019 season, Djokovic improved to 4-1 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head against Davidovich Fokina with the retirement. The Serbian will next bid to extend his perfect 18-0 tour-level record against Monfils in the Round of 16.

"He's an amazing guy. Someone I truly respect and like a lot as a person," he said of the Frenchman. "He brings so much joy to the fans, so much entertainment. One of the most charismatic players that we've had in the past two decades on the Tour. 

"It's great to see him back after several years of struggling with injuries. He's playing as good as ever. He's a year older than me. Everybody talks about my age, but what about him! He's doing amazing, so it's going to be a duel of the veterans tomorrow I guess."

While both men are currently 36, Monfils will turn 37 during the US Open on 1 September.

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