On superb form after winning the Japan Open last week, Novak Djokovic continues his Shanghai Rolex Masters title defense as he takes on John Isner on Thursday.
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Novak Djokovic aims for his seventh straight victory over John Isner when the two meet in the third round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters on Thursday.
Djokovic is not just looking for his seventh straight win against the big-serving American, but the seventh of his current match-winning streak after triumphing at last week’s Rakuten Japan Open in Tokyo.
Despite having been last seen retiring when trailing Stan Wawrinka by two sets in the fourth round of the US Open, due to a left shoulder injury, Djokovic was on absolutely sparkling form in Tokyo last week and by all appearances has brought the same level of play to Shanghai. Making his debut at the 500-level tournament, Djokovic did not drop a set on his way to the title and produced exemplary serving performances against Alexei Popyrin, Go Soeda, Lucas Pouille, David Goffin and qualifier John Millman to claim the 76th ATP Tour title of his extraordinary career.
Djokovic’s matches against Pouille and Goffin in particular were real polished gems of performances and the Serb certainly showed no sign of the shoulder problem which bothered him over the summer as he snapped up the title to narrow the gap on Rafael Nadal, with whom he is competing for the year-end world no. 1 ranking.
Nadal’s not-unanticipated withdrawal from Shanghai gives Djokovic the opportunity to make up some ground after a less-than-usually good American swing, as well as potentially closing the gap on Nadal’s lead in Masters 1000 Series titles (Nadal owns a record 35, Djokovic 33).
Four times a champion in Shanghai since its inception as a Masters 1000 Series tournament in 2009, including in 2018 when he beat Borna Coric in the final, Djokovic has always played some brilliant tennis at this stage of the season and in this tournament, and the way he opened his title defense was no exception. Up against Denis Shapovalov, Djokovic remained unbeaten against the Canadian as he delivered an excellent performance to win 6-3, 6-3, breaking in the eighth game of the first set as Shapovalov’s backhand skipped off the netcord and fell wide and seizing an early break in the second which he never came close to relinquishing.
Djokovic’s serving was superb in Tokyo and he lived up to the benchmark set at the Japan Open in Shanghai on Wednesday, losing just one point on serve in the first set and, in the second, only three behind his first serve – not at all bad when one is serving above 70%.
‘It’s nice to be back. And also, it feels very good to play as well as I did today,’ Djokovic said. ‘I knew that Denis is very dangerous player. If he has time, if he’s feeling the ball well, it can be a tough match.
‘He was serving really well, high percentage also first serves, and just really difficult to return in the first set, so it took me a little bit of time to really adjust, start reading his serve a little bit better. But I thought I served really well. I used angles. I was very solid from back of the court. I had no problems with the shoulder pain… So no concerns there. Everything is feeling and looking good.’
A Masters 1000 Series champion in Miami in March 2018, Isner has never yet been beyond the last 16 in Shanghai. The world no. 17 was ranked inside the top 10 for the first quarter of 2019, thanks to stellar 2018 results which included that Miami title and a memorable Wimbledon semifinal run, made semifinals in New York, Delray Beach and Acapulco in the spring and managed to get back to the Miami final before his title defense was ended by Roger Federer. But with the exception of a 250 title won against a modest field in Newport in July, it’s been slim pickings for Isner since then, and the American has struggled to win matches outside North America all year: 24 of the 29 matches he has won in 2019 have been played on North American soil, although it is worth nothing that Isner sat out the entire clay season and played only Wimbledon on European grass.
Isner won back-to-back matches outside North America for the first time this year in Beijing last week when he made the quarterfinals before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and he has had two good wins in Shanghai already over Zhuhai champion Alex de Minaur and Pouille, both in straight sets.
The fast courts in Shanghai should suit Isner and he has, of course, beaten Djokovic before, actually winning two of their first three matches. But the Serb has taken definitive control of their rivalry since then, and although they have only played once since 2015, it’s not like Isner has evolved much as a player since then. Djokovic knows what to do against Isner – hold his own serve, exert as much pressure on the return and from the baseline as possible and be ready to seize any opportunity that comes on Isner’s serve – and he has got incredibly good at doing it. Couple that with his recent good serving and Isner’s poor season, and it seems almost nailed on that Djokovic will get his seventh straight win – both over Isner, and in this current streak – on Thursday.
Djokovic vs Isner Shanghai Masters tennis is live from Shanghai on Thursday at 2pm local/7am BST
Djokovic vs Isner tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Djokovic set for seventh straight win over Isner in Shanghai
On superb form after winning the Japan Open last week, Novak Djokovic continues his Shanghai Rolex Masters title defense as…
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