Aggressive Djokovic Beats Nishikori In Madrid Blockbuster

Former World No. 1 to play Medvedev or Edmund in second round

Two-time former champion Novak Djokovic went after the second serve of Kei Nishikori on Monday to win 7-5, 6-4 in the standout first-round match of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Djokovic took a big step in the right direction by hitting 26 winners in long baseline rallies to improve to 12-2 lifetime against 2014 finalist Nishikori, who had reached the Madrid quarter-final (or better) in each of the past five years.

The 10th seed will next play on Wednesday in an encounter with Sydney International champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia or Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund.

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In an error strewn first set that saw Djokovic broken to love at 2-2, the Serbian played with great aggression and, after an accumulation of pressure, broke down Nishikori’s second serve to clinch the 66-minute opener. Djokovic saw two set point chances elude him at 4-5, on Nishikori’s serve, but at 5-6, when Nishikori hit a crosscourt backhand wide at 30/30, the former World No. 1 then struck a forehand return winner to seal the set.

Having saved one break point in the first game of the second set, Djokovic’s placement and groundstroke length tested Nishikori’s reserves. While the 30-year-old couldn’t break Nishikori’s serve, the pressure did, and in a 12-point 10th game, the Japanese star committed his 26h unforced error – a backhand long – to hand Djokovic the two-hour match.

After the match, Djokovic admitted it felt weird facing a player of Nishikori's calibre in the first round.

"It was strange, I must admit, playing Kei in the first round," Djokovic said. "Our rankings dropped due to injuries and everything else that was happening the last year. I mean, it can happen and it did happen here.

Of course, I've played Kei on big occasions, in many of the big tournaments, finals and semi-finals," Djokovic said. "It was different to play him in the first round. It was a big test for both of us.

"I'm glad that match went my way, but it could have gone his way as well. It was a very few points that really decided a winner today. I managed to play the right shots in the important moments. In both first and second set I made breaks, you know, to win both sets at the really final stages of both sets."

Feliciano Lopez extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead to 2-1 against Pablo Andujar with a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory. The 36-year-old lefty landed 12 aces against his countryman before clinching the match in one hour and 39 minutes.

In the last match of the day, Gael Monfils needed three sets to get past qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. The Frenchman will play top seed Rafael Nadal in the second round.

Did You Know?

Novak Djokovic’s win over Rafael Nadal in the 2011 Mutua Madrid Open final was his first win on clay against his rival. The 30-year-old has since beaten Nadal on six further occasions on clay, which accounts for 20 per cent of the Spaniard’s total career losses on the surface (35).
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