In his first singles match in the U.S. since 2021, Novak Djokovic experienced a brief encounter on Wednesday at the Western & Southern Open, triumphing over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The Spaniard was forced to retire early in the second set due to a lower back injury.
The second-ranked Djokovic secured the initial set with a score of 6-4. However, a mere two points into the second set, Davidovich Fokina, contorted in pain following his return, terminated the match after a span of 46 minutes.
Expressing his sentiments, Djokovic remarked, “Tonight was kind of mixed emotions. I have a good rapport with Alejandro. We have a good relationship off the court. We practice together while in Spain. He informed me about his lower back issue that emerged yesterday. It’s unfortunate.”
Djokovic, aged 36, had previously encountered a doubles loss on Tuesday, marking his return to the country after abstaining from events due to COVID-19 vaccine restrictions. This appearance in Cincinnati marked his first since 2019, as the 2020 Western & Southern Open transpired in New York due to the pandemic.
This match constituted Djokovic’s initial singles match since his defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final. As fans eagerly watched his practice sessions, Djokovic potentially finds himself on a trajectory for a showdown with Alcaraz in the US Open tuneup.
Reflecting on the outcome, Djokovic articulated, “Clearly, playing a single set is preferable to not playing at all or facing a loss. I have another opportunity tomorrow. It’s a process of shaking off the rust.”
The possessor of a record-breaking 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Djokovic is set to contend against Frenchman Gael Monfils, who maintains an 0-18 lifetime record against him. This encounter is scheduled for Thursday, with Monfils having previously defeated Alex de Minaur in straight sets earlier in the day.
Djokovic commended Monfils, emphasizing, “He’s an incredible individual, someone I deeply respect and genuinely like as a person. He brings immense joy and entertainment to the fans. He exudes charisma and is one of the most captivating players we’ve witnessed on the tour over the past two decades, currently playing at his peak.”