Novak Djokovic brushed aside a wrist issue suffered at the Laver Cup last weekend by putting on a dominant display against overmatched Spaniard Pablo Andujar in Israel. The result fires the Serb straight through to the quarter-finals of the Tel Aviv Watergen Open, where he is also competing in men’s doubles.
On Thursday evening, Djokovic strutted out on court as the No 1 seed and the main attraction. He was given a rousing reception as he prepared to take on veteran Spaniard Andujar, who has never gone beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam.
Djokovic has won 21 of them and his class was immediately evident as he notched a bagel on his unfortunate opponent. The 35-year-old hit a mesmerising forehand winner in the final game and gave little reaction when the first set was sealed 6-0.
Andujar finally got things going in the second set as he put three games on the board, but Djokovic found another gear and closed out the show in style, delighting the crowd with more sublime shots before winning 6-0, 6-3.
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Djokovic returned to action in Israel after an emotional Laver Cup last weekend, which doubled up as Roger Federer’s swansong. Following a straight-sets defeat to Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime, he revealed that a wrist injury had hampered his ability to serve with his normal power and accuracy.
There had been concerns over whether the Serb would be able to compete in Tel Aviv but he put those to bed in the build-up, saying: “I practiced almost two hours and it was OK. I’m feeling good. I’m happy that the mini injury is now behind me. Hoping it, knock on wood, stays the way I want it to stay for the tournament.”
Djokovic backed up his words and put his injury concerns to bed by blowing away Thursday’s opponent and putting in a showman’s performance. He powered straight through to the quarter-finals in both the men’s singles and doubles, with he and his partner Jonathan Erlich benefitting from a walkover against Bart Stevens and Sander Arends on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old missed an opportunity to notch another Grand Slam earlier this month as he was denied entry into the USA due to his Covid vaccination status.
Carlos Alcaraz went on to lift the title at Flushing Meadows, giving Djokovic one more rival to worry about, but his focus remains on a trip to Israel which he has fond memories of after visiting as part of the Serbian Davis Cup team as a teenager.
“[It was] one of the best and loudest atmospheres I ever experienced,” he told reporters. “There are very passionate sports fans here. It’s great to see that, because I like that kind of passion and love that comes in from the people towards sports.
“I haven’t been here for many years. And last time I was here, I had a fantastic experience. I was very welcomed by people. I have collaborated also with people from Israel, my fitness coach and manager for many years. All [these] factors have decided for me to come here.”