Novak Djokovic beats Pouille to reach Japan Open semifinals
TOKYO (AP) — Novak Djokovic is making quite a debut in Tokyo.
Competing in the Japanese capital for the first time, Djokovic beat fifth-seeded Lucas Pouille 6-1, 6-2 Friday to advance to the semifinals of the Japan Open.
Showing no lingering effects of a shoulder injury, Djokovic is attempting to win a title on his tournament debut for the 10th time. He has not dropped a set at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo, and he has broken serve 12 times in three matches.
“It was definitely one of the best matches I’ve played this year,” Djokovic said. “Best one of this week (and it) came at the right time … I served well, served many aces, returned a lot of his serves back and just used every opportunity to come in. Just overall, a really flawless performance.”
Djokovic got off to a strong start, winning the first game with a powerful ace, one of five in the first set. He broke Pouille in the next game to take a 2-0 lead and went up 5-1 after another break before serving to win the first set in only 20 minutes.
The second set was more of the same with Djokovic breaking Pouille in the first game and taking a 4-0 lead before Pouille won his first game of the set.
Pouille showed a brief sign of life by breaking Djokovic to make it 4-2 but that was as close as he would get. Djokovic broke in the next game and then served out to win with a powerful forehand to the corner.
It was a dominant performance for the No. 1 player, who won 82% of first serve points and five of six break points.
He will next meet David Goffin, who beat Hyeon Chung 6-2, 6-2. Goffin is the only former champion in the draw. He lost to Nick Kyrgios in the 2016 final before defeating Adrian Mannarino for the title in 2017.
Djokovic retired with a left-shoulder injury during his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka at the U.S. Open. In his first competitive match since facing Wawrinka, Djokovic was knocked out of the doubles with Filip Krajinovic on Monday but beat Alexei Popyrin in the first round and Japanese wild-card entry Go Soeda in the second round.
The 32-year-old Serb has now made at least the semifinals in six of his past seven tournaments, and in eight of his 12 events this season. Djokovic is making a push to finish as year-end No. 1 for the sixth time, which would tie the mark held by Pete Sampras.
Also, Reilly Opelka beat Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-3 and will face John Millman in the semifinals. Millman defeated Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-0.