Chung sets up Djokovic semis in Japan; Thiem downs Murray in China Open - GulfToday

Chung sets up Djokovic semis in Japan; Thiem downs Murray in China Open


Dominic Thiem hits a return shot against Andy Murray (unseen) during their quarter-final match at the China Open in Beijing on Friday. Associated Press

World number one Novak Djokovic on Friday put on a stunning show of supremacy at the Japan Open with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Lucas Pouille of France.

The Serb overwhelmed his opponent in the quarter-final match, showering Pouille with a barrage of powerful, precision shots to deep, wide corners mixed with delicate drop shots.

In the semi-finals, Djokovic will face 2017 Japan Open champion David Goffin of Belgium, who also comfortably defeated Chung Hyeon of South Korea 6-2, 6-2.

Djokovic’s latest victory provided further evidence of his swift recovery from a left shoulder injury that caused him to pull out of the US Open.

The Japan Open is the first competition for Djokovic since the incident. He nailed eight aces and never committed double fault while collecting points on 82 percent of his successful first serves.

After cruising through the first set, Djokovic stepped up his tennis and began the second set by taking four games straight.

Pouille fought back to keep the fifth game and in the sixth game, he collected his only break of the match. But Djokovic denied any other attempt by the French challenger, who was able to survive only one of seven break points.

It was the third meeting between the two men this year. Djokovic won all of them.

In the rest of the Tokyo tournament, John Millman defeated Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-0.

The winner will face Reilly Opelka, who beat Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-3, in the semifinals.

Elsewhere, Andy Murray went down fighting in the China Open quarter-finals on Friday as the former world number one lost 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) to top seed Dominic Thiem.

The 32-year-old Briton was defeated in just under two hours after threatening an unlikely, late comeback. A third match in four days in the Chinese capital proved a step too far for Murray, who looked exhausted after a three-set victory on Wednesday against Cameron Norrie.

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam winner, had the Beijing crowd firmly behind him against the Austrian Thiem, ranked fifth in the world to his opponent’s 503rd. But he lost his first service game to go behind from the outset, putting himself under pressure immediately.

At times there were shades of the Murray that topped the world rankings in 2016, but the second set started in the same way as the first, the Briton having his serve broken. Murray, who says that he now has no pain in his hip, looked down and out as Thiem served for the match. But he does not know how to quit and broke Thiem to make it 5-5 in the second set, then went up 6-5, before Thiem forced the tie break. He carried that momentum to victory. The 26-year-old Thiem plays Karen Khachanov in the last four after the Russian fourth seed defeated Fabio Fognini of Italy in three sets.

Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will play second seed Alexander Zverev in the other semi-final in an intriguing clash between two rising stars of men’s tennis.

Germany’s Zverev, at 22 a year older than Tsitsipas, has cruised into the last four, yet to drop a set.

In the women’s draw, world number one Ashleigh Barty said she produced some of her best tennis this year as she battled into the semi-finals with a gutsy victory over Petra Kvitova.

Naomi Osaka fought back from a set down to defeat Bianca Andreescu in a captivating first meeting between two of the biggest young talents in tennis. The 21-year-old Japanese moved into the China Open semi-finals with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory in over two hours in Beijing.

She now plays title-holder Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday in the last four. Sixth-ranked Andreescu went up 3-1, but Osaka then reeled off five games straight to level at one set each and go to a decider.

Osaka nailed the third match point with an ace, her 11th of the match.

Agence France-Presse