Photo via Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
The defending champion make quick work of Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin last night, winning 6-3, 6-3 in 84 minutes, saving all four break points he faced in the second set to book a spot in the second round.
Bautista Agut pushed Djokovic in the second set of their encounter last year and the Serb is predicting a difficult encounter.
“He won against (Juan Martin) Del Potro in the Australian Open in a thrilling five sets,” said Djokovic of his second round opponent. “He has improved his game significantly since last year, and winning against Del Potro in a Grand Slam says enough about his quality.
“I'm going to get out on the court and try to win that match, of course, not underestimating my opponent.”
In the first round last night, Djokovic broke in the third game on a double fault from Istomin to inch ahead 2-1. He broke again to take the opening set in 35 minutes and it looked like he would hit the cruise control button. But Djokovic had to save three break points in the opening game of the second set before holding serve. It took the No1 seed six chances before he broke for a 2-0 lead and struggled in the seventh game, saving a break point before holding for 5-2.
He sealed the victory on an entertaining point, a long rally that saw him come into the net to hit a solid volley and Istomin’s attempted passing shot sailed long.
“It was a tough draw against Denis who can play big from back of the court. He's a tall guy, can serve well. He loves playing on the hard courts, and he likes playing on the big stage,” said Djokovic, who hadn’t played a competitive match since his quarter-final loss at the Australian Open.
“I have played him earlier this year in the Australian Open, third round. I know he can play equally well against any of the top players from the baseline, and, you know, I needed to stay focused and kind of believe in my shots.
“It wasn't easy as the score line indicates. I needed to work for my games. My serve worked really well in the second set, and that helped me to get some free points.”
Earlier in the day, last year’s runner-up Tomas Berdych continued to put up some impressive serving stats to secure a place in the second round.
The No3 seed is leading the ATP World Tour at the moment in the percentage of service games won, with a stunning 97 per cent, and yesterday, he won 93 per cent of his points on first serve en route to a 6-3, 6-4 win over qualifier Marius Copil. Berdych took his current winning streak to eight matches – having won two Davis Cup clashes and five matches to lift the title in Rotterdam – and the Czech star is looking to keep it going.
“I'm just trying to profit from that (winning streak), trying to build up on the form, try to bring the confidence as far as I can, and really just go one by one,” said Berdych, who plays Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky today.