Rampant Djokovic Races Past Garin In Astana

Fourth seed to meet Van de Zandschulp in second round

Novak Djokovic delivered an ominous opening display Wednesday at the Astana Open, where the fourth seed breezed past Cristian Garin 6-1, 6-1 in just 62 minutes at the ATP 500 event.

Fresh from winning his 89th tour-level title without dropping a set in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Djokovic maintained his impressive level in a near-flawless performance on tournament debut in Kazakhstan. The Serbian was in control from the start, finding consistency and accuracy with his groundstrokes to keep Garin under pressure as he converted five from eight break points en route to increasing his ATP Head2Head series lead against the Chilean to 3-0.

“From the start to the end, [it was] a great performance,” said Djokovic after the match. "Playing in a new tournament, different conditions, the first match is never easy. Obviously you are looking to see how you are going to adapt, but I did it perfectly, really, played as well as I can. I just made him work and used every opportunity that was presented to me.”

The win lifts Djokovic one spot to 14th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin as he attempts to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the 15th time. Thanks to his Wimbledon victory this year, the Serbian only needs to finish in the Top 20 of the Race To Turin in order to qualify for the season-ending showpiece, where he is a five-time champion.

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Djokovic was particularly impressive early against the World No. 81 Garin as he surged to the first set in style with a combination of blistering groundstrokes and clinical serving. Although Garin fended off a break point to hold for 1-1 in the second set, the Serbian's level barely dropped as Garin was left helpless in the face of a relentless barrage from his opponent, who finished the match having dropped just six points behind his serve.

With his triumph in Tel Aviv last weekend, Djokovic became the only ATP player to have won titles on clay (Rome), grass (Wimbledon) and hard courts in 2022. The seven-time year-end No. 1 admitted his ability to adjust quickly to new conditions meant he is feeling comfortable in Astana, despite the courts playing considerably slower than those in Israel last week.

“I was lucky that throughout my career I was actually pretty quick in adjusting to different conditions and surfaces," said Djokovic. "But I think that experience helps of knowing what to do. But [also] winning a tournament, [as opposed to] losing in a final or semis, makes a difference mentally. Coming into this tournament I feel confident, I feel excited, I feel motivated, so I think that helps as well to adjust quickly.”

The Serbian’s next opponent in Astana as he chases his fourth tour-level title of the season will be World No. 34 Botic van de Zandschulp.

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Like Djokovic, Marc-Andrea Huesler was an ATP 250 winner at the weekend, when the Swiss marched to his maiden tour-level crown at the Sofia Open. Huesler was unable to back that result up in Astana, however, as he fell 6-0, 6-2 to Emil Ruusuvuori. The Finn faces a maiden ATP Head2Head clash against second seed Daniil Medvedev in the second round.

Another player arriving in Kazakhstan off the back of a strong week, Tel Aviv runner-up Marin Cilic, was also on the brink of an early exit on Wednesday. Yet the ninth seed dug deep to complete a 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2 win against Oscar Otte.

A strong second-set tie=break showing from Cilic proved crucial, as he roared to an unassailable 6/1 lead en route to levelling the match before coming good in the decider to cap a two-hour, 32-minute win. The victory improved Cilic’s record in opening-round matches in 2022 to 15-3, and the Croatian will next play Karen Khachanov for a spot in the quarter-finals.

In Wednesday's only second-round action in the bottom half of the draw, Roberto Bautista Agut backed up his first-round upset of Felix Auger-Aliassime with a 6-1, 7-6(5) triumph against lucky loser Pavel Kotov.

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