Second seed Novak Djokovic is through to the third round of the Western & Southern Open after 46 minutes of play.

In his first match in Cincinnati since 2020, when he captured his second crown, and his first appearance on the Tour after the 2023 Wimbledon triumph, the Serbian star won the opening set against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4, before the Spaniard retired in the first game of the second set with a back injury.

“I hope Alejandro bounces back to the court quickly, recovers from his lower back injury,” Djokovic said in his post-match interview. “It’s never the way you like to win, I think for the crowd as well. Coming in, they expect to see a battle, they expect to see a match. Of course it’s great for me to be able to come back to the court and win a match. Obviously mixed emotions with the way it finished. Nevertheless, I’m hoping that I can build my form day to day and progress through the tournament with raising the level.”

Match statistics: aces (3-4), double faults (2-0), winners (7-9), unforced errors (12-19), total points won (34-22).

Novak will next meet Gael Monfils on Thursday about 20:30 local time (02:30 CET Friday). He holds a perfect 18-0 H2H record against the Frenchman.

“He’s an amazing guy. Someone I truly respect and like as a person,” Djokovic said of Gael. “He brings so much joy to the fans, so much entertainment. One of the most charismatic players that we’ve had in the past two decades on the Tour. It’s great to see him back after several years of struggling with injuries. He’s playing as good as ever. He’s a year older than me. Everybody talks about my age, but what about him! He’s doing amazing, so it’s going to be a duel of the veterans tomorrow I guess.”

Photo: Getty Images

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