Can Novak Djokovic go undefeated in 2020?
The 17-time Grand Slam winner is 21-0 in this pandemic shortened season after a 6-3, 6-1 win over Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“Since I made that break at the beginning of the first set I never looked back,” said Djokovic after a comparatively easy win over the young German who had been playing quite well. “I was being aggressive whenever I can, I was going for my shots. Struff did not serve at his best. He gave me quite a lot of looks on his second serves.”
The nearly six-month hiatus from the ATP Tour during the COVID-19 pandemic gave Djokovic a chance to work on all parts of his game. His volley looked particularly sharp and he demonstrated a number of finesse shots, chips and short slices that perplexed Struff.
“Everything was worked on,” said Djokovic, who would be the odds-on favorite for the U.S. Open title when that Grand Slam event begins on Monday. “There is always something you can improve. I worked on every single shot. Great that it is paying off so early after the break. I’ve been feeling really strong and striking the ball very nicely.”
Next up in the semifinals for Djokovic is Roberto Bautista Agut, the crafty Spaniard who has three career wins over Djokovic, all on hardcourt and two of them last year. Agut rallied from a first-set loss to Daniil Medvedev, the tournament’s defending champion, for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.
“Well, that's true that I played really good matches against Novak,” Agut said. “I have to tell you that he didn't lose a match this year. He is the favorite, and I will try to play my game and try to enjoy another good match against him.”
Though he is without a Grand Slam title to his name, this 32-year-old has always been a troublesome opponent, with a solid all-around game that features a precise forehand.
“We always expect Roberto play at a certain level, he doesn’t drop much, he doesn’t give it away, you have to earn your points,” Djokovic said.
“I'm happy, no?” Agut said. “I think I have been practicing hard. I have been doing a lot of great things at home. But it's never easy to come back and to play good the first tournament, no? I think I have to be passioned to try to enjoy every single match I play here after six months without competing.”
In the women’s tournament, Naomi Osaka lost the first set, was down 2-0 in the second and facing a break point when she rallied to beat Anett Kontaveit, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.