Novak Djokovic, playing his first singles tournament since winning Wimbledon in July, reached the Tel Aviv Watergen Open quarter finals with a straight-sets victory over Spain’s Pablo Andujar.
It was one of the longest games I’ve ever played in my life and I’ve played many, many games in my life. But credit to Pablo for fighting and playing a great match as well Novak Djokovic
The former world number one from Serbia required 86-minutes to dispatch his 115th-ranked opponent 6-0 6-3 firing 30 winners and breaking the Spaniard four times.
He was always in control against Andujar whom he has now defeated on three occasions in what is his best win – in score terms – of the season.
Currently ranked seven, the 35-year-old took control from the opening moment securing the first seven games and showing no signs of any wrist injury problems which he revealed during the Laver Cup competition last week.
“The first match started off in a perfect way for me,” said Djokovic, who last played in Israel as a teenager 16 years ago in a Davis Cup tie.
“I won seven games in a row and we were fighting in that eighth game (which took over 20 minutes to complete).
“It was one of the longest games I’ve ever played in my life and I’ve played many, many games in my life. But credit to Pablo for fighting and playing a great match as well.”
Having witnessed Roger Federer’s emotional retirement last week at the O2, he confirmed he wasn’t considering a similar move when asked prior to his match.
“I still want to play tennis even though I achieved pretty much everything that you can achieve in tennis,” said Djokovic, whose 21 Grand Slam titles is just one short of Rafael Nadal’s current men’s record of 22.
“I still have passion and hunger to play at a highest professional level.”
Djokovic will now face Canada’s 149th-ranked Vasek Pospisil – a player he has already beaten 5 times – for a place in the semi-finals after the 32-year-old Canadian eliminated the Israeli qualifier Edan Leshem 6-3 6-2.
There was also success for Britain’s No.6. Liam Broady, a qualifier ranked 138, who saved a match point before going on to defeat the world No.22 from Holland, Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4 4-6 6-3 for one of his best runs of the season to reach the last eight where Marin Cilic, the second seed, awaits.
The Croatian, a former US Open champion, however, struggled somewhat in his opening match with another former US Open winner, Dominic Thiem but eventually completed a 6-7(6) 6-2 6-4 win over the Austrian.
France’s Arthur Rinderknech also saved a match point to clinch a 6-3 2-6 7-6(7) win against third seed Diego Schwartzman from Argentina.
The world number 58 will next play Roman Safiullin, a 6-1 6-4 winner over another Argentine, Tomas Martin Etcheverrry.
The fourth quarter final pitches the fourth seed Maxime Cressy of the US against Frenchman Constant Letienne, the former having defeated his compatriot Sebastian Korda 6-4 6-4 and the latter Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori by a similar score-line.