Novak Djokovic secured the initial set 6-4, and a mere two points into the second set, Fokina winced in pain, prompting an early termination of the match after a concise 46 minutes.
In his first U.S. singles match since 2021, Novak Djokovic experienced a brief evening, emerging victorious over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the Western and Southern Open. The Spaniard withdrew due to a lower back injury midway through the second set. Djokovic, ranked second, clinched the opening set 6-4, but Davidovich Fokina’s discomfort halted proceedings after just two points into the second set.
Djokovic expressed his emotions, stating, “It’s a mix of emotions tonight. I have a great relationship with Alejandro, both on and off the court. We’ve trained together in Spain. He informed me about his lower back issue that emerged yesterday. It’s unfortunate.”
Djokovic, aged 36, encountered a doubles loss on Tuesday upon his return to the U.S. after being absent due to COVID-19 vaccine-related restrictions. This marked his first appearance in Cincinnati since 2019; the 2020 Western & Southern Open was relocated to New York due to the pandemic.
The match marked Djokovic’s return to singles play following his defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final. The record holder of 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the men’s category, Djokovic is scheduled to face Gael Monfils, a Frenchman who has yet to secure a victory in their 18 prior encounters, on Thursday.
Djokovic commented, “Playing one set is certainly better than no play or a loss. I have another opportunity tomorrow. I’m working to shake off the rust.”
On the women’s side, top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who has never progressed beyond the quarterfinals in the Cincinnati tournament, commenced her week on a positive note by defeating American qualifier Danielle Collins with a dominant score of 6-1, 6-0.
Swiatek expressed her satisfaction, stating, “Compared to last year, I feel much more confident in Cincinnati. This signifies significant progress for me. I believe this boost in confidence will have a positive impact on my game. I’m pleased to exhibit better tennis here this year.” Also Read: Ashwin quotes MS Dhoni after Hardik’s ‘doesn’t matter’ remark on T20I series loss to West Indies- Hindiwix
In the upcoming round, Swiatek is set to confront Zheng Qinwen, who made an impressive comeback to overcome the 43-year-old Venus Williams 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 on Wednesday.
An unexpected turn of events occurred on the women’s side as 18-year-old Linda Noskova managed to stun the ninth-ranked Petra Kvitova, emerging victorious with a scoreline of 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Kvitova had reached the final in Cincinnati the previous year.
In a competitive match lasting 2 hours and 17 minutes, the fourth-ranked Elena Rybakina defeated Jelena Ostapenko with a score of 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-4.
On the men’s side, fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, who had previously fallen in the semifinals in Cincinnati for three consecutive years, advanced past American Ben Shelton in straight sets, securing a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) victory.
Tsitsipas remarked, “Players like this often play with a sense of liberation, having nothing to lose. They exhibit a carefree style, reminiscent of my early days in the sport.”
The day yielded favorable outcomes for American players as well. The third-seeded Jessica Pegula managed to fend off a potential upset from qualifier Martina Trevisan, ultimately triumphing with a score of 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-3. In addition, the seventh-seeded Coco Gauff secured a straightforward victory of 6-2, 6-2 against Mayar Sherif in the evening session.
The longstanding Masters 1000 tournament, which has been hosted in Cincinnati since 1899, remains the oldest professional tournament situated in the same city. However, its future hangs in uncertainty, with the possibility of relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2026.