October 24, 2016

Djokovic makes winning return to Madrid

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic returns a ball to Croatian tennis player Borna Coric during the Madrid Open tournament at the Caja Magica (Magic Box) sports complex in Madrid. Photo: AFP

Novak Djokovic stepped up his preparations for the French Open as the top seed beat teenager Borna Coric 6-2, 6-4 in his opening match at the Madrid Masters on Wednesday.

The world number one, who lifted the trophy in the Spanish capital five years ago, has not played in Madrid since 2013 when he lost his opening match to Grigor Dimitrov.

The Serb’s success over Croatian youngster Coric was his first clay win of 2016 following a loss in Monte Carlo to Jiri Vesely almost a month ago.

“Second match on the clay-court season for me—the first one didn’t go so well for me,” Djokovic said. “I had some time to recuperate emotionally and mentally.

“I needed that more than physically because it has been a very successful but very demanding start of the season, first four months. I played a lot of matches.

“I performed very solid in opening round, few things could have been better against a young player that I never played against.”

Djokovic will next face Spanish specialist Roberto Bautista Agut after the 15th seed defeated fellow countryman Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.

Elsewhere, Nick Kyrgios dumped out 2013 finalist Stan Wawrinka, with the Australian seeing off the Swiss 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/2) in the second round.

Wawrinka, the fourth seed, managed 11 aces but was unable to break the Kyrgios serve while losing his own four times.

“It was generally a good match, I had chances in the first set,” Wawrinka said.

“He was serving well in the big moments. He played better on a few important points.

“His serve was tough to read. it was a high-level match but a few points can make the difference.”

Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori was helped by a collapse from Fabio Fognini as the Italian served for victory—Asia’s top player completed a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 fightback win.

“After the first set, he started playing better than me. In the third, he deserved to win. I don’t know what happened to him in the last couple of games.

“I had a little luck, so I tried to keep up my confidence.”

Czech eighth seed Tomas Berdych showed fitness after a stomach virus, advancing over Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-3, while world number nine David Ferrer beat Denis Kudla 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

French 16th seed Gilles Simon will line up against Andy Murray in the next round on Wednesday after a defeat of Estoril finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Azarenka pulls out

The women’s Madrid Open was hit by a high-level injury defection as fourth seed and two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka quit before her match due to lower back pain.

The premature exit handed a place in the quarter-finals to qualifier Louisa Chirico.

Azarenka, from Belarus and the winner of back-to-back titles in March at Indian Wells and Miami, had advanced at the Caja Magica with a pair of straight-set wins, losing just 11 games.

The world number five lost Madrid finals in 2011 and 2012.

Her withdrawal came on the day that holder and two-time champion Petra Kvitova lost in the third round, going out to Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-4.

There are now no top five women’s seeds left in the event.

Number six Simona Halep heads the field after she beat Swiss 10th seed Timea Bacsinszky, a title-winner at the weekend in Morocco, 6-2, 6-3.

Azarenka joins Roger Federer in pulling out of one of the final major tune-ups prior to the May 22 start of the French Open due to back problems.

“I tweaked my back in my first match, it was cold that day,” said Azarenka.

“In my second match, I was in a lot of discomfort. I thought a day off would help, but today during a hit it came back again.

“I just don’t feel I’m able to compete today.”

Azarenka was unsure if she would be able to play Rome, which begins on Monday.

“I want to make a smart decision for the big picture,” she said.

Romanian Irina Begu beat Christina McHale 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-4 while Sorana Cirstea defeated German Laura Siegemund 6-4, 7-6 (11/9).

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