Novak Djokovic aims to improve to 21-0 in 2020 as he takes on big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff for a place in…
Novak Djokovic aims to improve to 21-0 in 2020 as he takes on big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff for a place in the semifinals in ‘Cincinnati’.
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Djokovic vs Struff is live from New York on Wednesday 26 August at 3pm local/8pm BST
After a slightly shaky performance against Ricardas Berankis in the second round, as Djokovic played his first match for six months, the world no. 1 delivered a vastly improved showing to beat Tennys Sandgren and book his place in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic will be aiming to maintain that high level as he takes on Struff, who knocked out 2019 runner-up David Goffin in the previous round and took a set from Djokovic at the Australian Open in January.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
How to watch Djokovic vs Struff live
Western & Southern Open matches including Novak Djokovic vs Jan-Lennard Struff are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.
Djokovic vs Struff: Head-to-head
Djokovic has a 3-0 record vs Struff, winning their first two matches in straight sets. When they played at the Australian Open in January, Struff pushed Djokovic to a tie-break in the first set and took the third set as Djokovic won 7-6(5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
Djokovic vs Struff: Preview
Signs of rust both mental and physical were to be expected in Djokovic’s first match in six months and indeed were apparent as he edged past Ricardas Berankis 7-6(2), 6-4. But if the way he played against Tennys Sandgren in his next match were any indication, Djokovic is shaking off that rust faster than anyone not acquainted with his habitual excellence would believe.
Djokovic pulled out of the doubles, which he was planning to play with Filip Krajinovic, due to neck pain, for which he needed treatment during the Berankis match, but he said after beating Sandgren that the pain was almost completely gone – and it looked like it. The world no. 1 broke Sandgren twice to take a one-sided first set, saving the only break point he faced as he closed out the first set 6-2 on his third opportunity; in the second set, he again broke Sandgren immediately, then held from 0-40 at 4-3, saving one break point in particularly spectacular style with a pair of exceptional volleys which would have had the crowd on their feet, had their been one. Djokovic was unable to any of the five match points he had on Sandgren’s serve at 3-5, but served the match out to love to seal the 99-minute victory and improve to 20-20 in 2020.
Of those 20 victories this season, 15 have come in straight sets: Only Denis Shapovalov, Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem and Djokovic’s opponent on Wednesday, Struff, have taken sets from him. It’s exalted company for the baby-faced, big-serving German, who has been playing some of the best tennis of his career over the past 18 months.
Struff reached a career-high ranking of world no. 33 in 2019 last July and has won six of the 13 matches against top-10 players he has played in 2019-20, scoring wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev, Karen Khachanov and most recently against David Goffin, runner-up at the Western & Southern Open 12 months ago. Struff is now on a five-match winning streak, having won Davis Cup rubbers before the shutdown and returned from his five-month absence to beat Alex de Minaur, Shapovalov and Goffin in ‘Cincinnati’.
All of this bodes well for Struff being able to make it an interesting match against Djokovic – but one that he can win? The German’s big weapon is his serve, and Djokovic is one of the best returners the game has ever seen, perhaps the best; in three previous meetings, Struff has managed a single set, and that was when he played one of the finest matches he has ever produced against Djokovic in the first round of the Australian Open. I don’t believe there’s a scenario in which Struff wins this match, but I think he can keep it close.