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Djokovic survives Indian Wells scare as Osaka continues winning ways

Novak Djokovic made a winning return to Indian Wells after a five-year hiatus from the event but only after being given a scare by world No 69 Aleksandar Vukic on Saturday night.

Djokovic recorded the milestone 400th Masters 1000 win of his career with a 6-2 5-7 6-3 victory over the dangerous Vukic.

“Five years is quite a long time for a professional tennis player but at the same time playing here the last time in 2019 felt like yesterday,” Djokovic said.

“I connected with the crowd and everyone I haven’t seen in five years very quickly. A lot of people come to practice sessions, not just mine. It’s amazing to see that much passion and respect and appreciation for tennis and tennis players. It’s awesome to be in Tennis Paradise.”

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Djokovic heaped praise on his opponent Vukic after a battling victory at Indian Wells

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Vukic hit this insane winner off a blistering second serve from Novak Djokovic to claim the second set in sensational fashion…

The world No 1 is gunning for a record sixth crown in the California desert after being unable to enter the US for the past five years due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He won the tournament three times in a row from 2014-2016 but lost in the third round to now-retired German Philipp Kohlschreiber in his last appearance in 2019.

Vukic had the better of extended rallies against Djokovic, clubbing 19 winners from the baseline to Djokovic’s 13, including 18 from the forehand wing.

But Djokovic won 83 per cent of points on his first serve and restricted Vukic to winning just 27 per cent of second-serve points.

Djokovic paid tribute to Vukic’s attacking approach to the match. “He played amazing and deserved great credit and applause,” the 36-year-old said. “The crowd really appreciated his tennis and the quality was really high. He played some ripping forehands and crushing serves. It was difficult to go through him.

“He was going for it and it was going in. I kind of managed to crack the code in the third set and once I broke his serve I felt I stepped it up a bit and finished off the match in style.”

The Serb will next meet Italian lucky loser Luca Nardi, who defeated China’s Zhang Zhizhen 6-3 3-6 6-3 on Monday.

Rarity from Vukic

Aleksandar Vukic is the first player of either Balkan nationality or heritage to take a set from Novak Djokovic at an ATP Masters 1000 event since Milos Raonic – Cincinnati F 2020

Djokovic has won 26/38 in straight sets

Tale of the Tape

Novak Djokovic vs Aleksandar Vukic: Match Stats
Novak Djokovic vs Aleksandar Vukic: Match Stats

‘Djokovic tested on his return’

Miles Maclagan on Sky Sports Tennis

“It was a really good contest in the end and understandably Vukic came out a littler nervy but he did well to claw himself back into an entertaining encounter where he had Djokovic’s attention at times.

“He won a lot of those longer rallies and his first serve was extremely useful and I think he should take a lot of encouragement and confidence from the way he was able to play.

“Djokovic really didn’t face any trouble in the third set but he was certainly tested on her return to the desert.”

Osaka continues her winning ways

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Naomi Osaka shared how her break from tennis has changed her outlook on the sport and life

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka kept up her winning ways with a 7-5 6-3 victory over No 14 seed Liudmila Samsonova.

Osaka, who won her first WTA title here in 2018, is playing the fifth tournament of her return to tour after her 2023 maternity leave.

She will face Elise Mertens from Belgium on Monday.

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