By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday 15th August 2018
Novak Djokovic passed Adrian Mannarino, while Robin Haase annoyed third-placed Alexander Zverev with 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Photo credit: Christopher Levy
A queasy one Novak Djokovic took medication to soothe an upset stomach, and then performed a clinical dissection of a tricky one Adrian Mannarino to keep his quest for a first Cincinnati title alive.
Beaten in the first set, Djokovic called the doctor 5-2 in the second set, took a tablet for indigestion and then pulled past Mannarino, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
More: Federer on the Olympic future
It was Djokovic’s fourth win in as many matches with the French left-hander and it wasn’t easy.
“Thanks to him, he played very well in the first set,” said Djokovic afterwards, Leif Shiras from Tennis Channel. “From my side, I haven’t felt really well in a set and a half, I struggled to really move on the pitch and then take the ball early. It used it. It used it well.
“I only lost one game after the doctor’s visit. So everything he gave me worked fine.”
Alexander Zverev succumbed to persistent neck pain.
Dutch veteran Robin Haase extended Zverev’s Cincinnati Misery Tour and defeated the third-placed German 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 to reach the second round of the Western & Southern Open for the first time.
Washington, DC champion Zverev dropped to 0-4 at Queen City.
The 31-year-old Haase defeated Zverev for the second time in a row after suffering a humiliating defeat against the then 17-year-old Zverev at his first meeting at Hamburg in 2014.
Memories of that stabbing defeat inspired world # 55 today for urgency.
“The first time he literally kicked my ass. I lost 2-0 or 0-2,” said Haase. “That was the tournament where he actually got promoted. And yes, he’s come a long way since then.
“We played at the Australian Open and he completely destroyed me for a set and a half, but then I managed to turn the game around and in the end I should have maybe won this game, but I lost it mentally. And now I’ve been there twice physically, mentally and technically. And we have to be a bit lucky against these top guys. “
Haase, who rallied for his first career Cincinnati win against Filip Krajinovic on Tuesday, fought nine of 14 breakpoints, including eight of nine in the last set today.
“I think I played well,” said Haase. “Today my returns were, I think, really, really good. I mean, I think the first serve he hit me was 136 and I hit him right back. I was good on my part.”
Haase could play the 13th-placed Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta for a quarter-final place.
The five-time Cincinnati finalist Djokovic started slowly, moved slowly at times and was beaten by a sharp Mannarino in several longer rallies in the first set.
An angled drop volley winner gave the world number 28 the breakpoint in game seven. When Djokovic hit a backhand in the middle of the net, the Frenchman had the first break and a 4-3 lead.
Mannarino burst back from a Love 30 hole, scooping up four consecutive points, underpinning the break in game eight, and staying in control to build a set lead.
Djokovic got used to the conditions in the grandstand and played with more patience and care to take a 2-0 lead in the second set when Mannarino hit a forehand on the line.
While the Frenchman had good success in curling his forehand crosscourt, Djokovic invited some mistakes when Mannarino tried to change direction from forehand on the line.
To confirm, Djokovic gambled away a 40-15 lead. Mannarino worked over the Serbian two-handed and hit a backhand over the line in the third game.
Djokovic moved closer to the baseline to take his opponent’s time and hit a backhand in the corner, drawing a mistake to make it 3-1.
Djokovic held a 5-2 second set lead and called the doctor for treatment for an upset stomach.
This heartbreaking request turned out to be a turning point.
Djokovic returned to the pitch with a calmer stomach and broke again because of a stray Mannarino forehand that forced the last set.
At this point, Djokovic struck with more clarity and conviction.
Djokovic stamped his second break in a row and earned a 2-0 lead in the third set and then confirmed the break at Love.
Djokovic pushed Mannarino back behind the baseline with a heavy topspin, and Djokovic brought a deep drive and pulled the mistake for a 4-0 break.
Mannarino slammed a simple dropshot into the tape to hand the match point to Djokovic. The Wimbledon winner closed in two hours and six minutes.
The Western & Southern Open are the only Masters 1000 title missing from Djokovic’s impressive résumé.
“I’ve been trying to win the Cincinnati tournament for over a decade,” said Djokovic. “I’ve had five finals here and couldn’t take the last hurdle. But I’ll keep trying. I’m still in the tournament and I hope to finish the Masters this year.”
The 13-time Grand Slam champion continues his quest for his first Cincinnati final in three years and will compete with both defending champions Grigor Dimitrov or Mischa Zverev for a quarter-final place.
Marin Cilic, who defeated Djokovic in the final of the Queen’s Club in June, came through a tough three-setter.
The 2014 US Open champion won qualification Marius Copli, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4. The seventh seed Cilic will face Sam Querrey, his opponent in the 2017 Wimbledon semi-finals, or Karen Khachanov, Next.
David Goffin underpinned his victory over the Toronto finalists Stefanos Tsitsipas, fights past the French Benoit couple, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. It was Goffin’s second win in five encounters with Paire.
The Belgian, who is ranked 11th, plays a Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson Next. Anderson hit seven aces, won 35 of 37 first serve points, and hit the only breakpoint he faced while stopping Jeremy Chardy, 7-6 (6), 6-2.