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Novak Djokovic needs nine match points to take down Steve Johnson Monday night.

Read & Watch: Djokovic Needs Nine Match Points To Close Out Cincy Opener

Serbian seeking his first Western & Southern Open title

Tenth seed Novak Djokovic was tested by home favourite Steve Johnson in his Western & Southern Open first-rounder on Monday evening. But the 30-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titlist, after failing to convert his first eight match points in the second set, eventually advanced 6-4, 7-6(4) to start his Cincinnati campaign.

“I thought I had patches of the match where I played pretty good,” said Djokovic. “I thought that I should have closed it [out] earlier, but credit to him for fighting, fighting back, playing some good points when he needed to, [with] big serves. Overall, I'm glad that I managed to close it out in straight sets, because it was becoming quite a battle, two hours, two sets.”

Djokovic rebounded well from his third-round loss at last week's Rogers Cup to Greece's #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas, the eventual finalist. The Serbian broke in the 10th game in the opening set and then rode that momentum to jump to a 3-0 lead in the second set against Johnson.

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But the American raised his level, winning the next four games, including two breaks of serve. Johnson brought one of the break points with a down-the-line forehand that he hit from his shoestrings. He then broke in the fifth game with a run-around forehand return that Djokovic tried to retrieve but lost his racquet in the process.

Finally, the 10th-seeded Djokovic, after coming up short on five match points in the ninth game of the second set, hit a crosscourt forehand winner on his ninth match point.

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Cincinnati is the only ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event missing from Djokovic's Masters 1000 trophy case. The 30-time Masters 1000 titlist has won all other eight Masters 1000 titles and has reached the Cincinnati final five times (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015). He and Johnson were meeting for the first time.

Djokovic will next meet Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. The former No. 1 leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-0, including a straight-sets win earlier this year at the grass-court Fever-Tree Championships.