Djokovic advances but new concerns rise over fitness

Tue Aug 30, 2016 6:38am EDT
 
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By Steve Keating

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic opened the defense of his U.S. Open title with a 6-3 5-7 6-2 6-1 win over Poland's Jerzy Janowicz on Monday, but the labored performance gave rise to fresh concerns about the world number one's fitness.

After a sizzling start to the season that brought grand slam wins No.11 and 12 at the Australian and French Opens, Djokovic's form has plummeted, with a third-round loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon followed by a first-round exit at the Rio Olympics.

The Serb might have been in trouble on another day at Flushing Meadows but Janowicz, ranked 246 places below Djokovic, has advanced from the first round just once in four previous U.S. Open visits and looked unlikely to do it again on Monday.

Djokovic, a U.S. Open finalist five of the last six years, next faces Czech Jiri Vesely, a five-set winner over Indian qualifier Saketh Myneni.

Djokovic arrived in New York having been hampered by a left wrist injury and distracted by undisclosed "private matters" and on Monday trainers were called out early in the opening set to work on his right forearm.

Several times during the two hour, 37 minute match, Djokovic could be seen grimacing when hitting his powerful forehand, while his serve rarely looked threatening, stuck at around 100 mph.

"It was just prevention, it's all good," Djokovic told reporters. "Look, each day presents us some kind of challenges that we need to accept and overcome.

"After all I've been through in the last couple of weeks it's pleasing to finish the match and win it."   Continued...

 
Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits to Jerzy Janowicz of Poland on day one of the 2016 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports