Novak Djokovic met Bjorn Fratangelo on Stadium 1 at the BNP Paribas Open. The Serb was tested in his first tour-level match since his retirement in Dubai due to an eye issue. After dropping the first set in a stunner, the Serb rebounded to take the match in three sets 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Fantastic Fratangelo Takes Opening Set To Shock The Serb
The American raced out to a 0-40 lead in the opening service game of the match, thanks to a net cord and a couple of errors from the world number one and was broken after a wayward backhand. Fratangelo consolidated his break with an ace to go up 2-0. After a double-fault forced his service game back to deuce, the Serb was broken yet again after an aggressive forehand put the Serb on the defensive, allowing a smartly played drop shot by Donaldson to put him up 3-0.
Oddly enough, it was the 22-year-old American who was controlling the baseline rallies, winning majority of them in the early going. He was also hitting some clean winners off the backhand wing, extending his lead to 4-0. Djokovic finally held easily to get on the board at 1-4 down, but an error down 2-5, closed out the first set for the American 6-2 in a shocking display.
The key number of the set? 18. Djokovic had 18 unforced errors in the opening set, an incredibly high number for someone as efficient as the world number one.
Djokovic Cruises To Second Set
After Djokovic held to open the set, Fratangelo found himself in a battle on his own serve. The American was stunningly winning backhand-to-backhand rallies against the man with the best backhand in the world. A couple of inside-out forehands set up game point, and he held for one-all, which would give him much belief if he were to pull off the upset.
However, after that hard fought second game, Djokovic made his breakthrough in the fourth game, to go up 3-1. It was cruise control after that for the Serb, taking the set 6-1 and forcing a decider. Djokovic cut his unforced error total down from 18 to 4 this set, proving why he’s the world’s best when he’s in control.
Djokovic Survives Fratangelo Test
After six straight games to close out the second, Djokovic found himself on the board early again in the third. A backhand error from the 22-year-old American gave the break to the Serb. Despite that, the second-youngest American in the top 150 battled to get the break back after the Australian Open champ dumped a backhand into the net. In another shock, down 15-30, Djokovic allowed a ball to drop in as the wind kept it in play though it looked long. The American held for 2-1. After the Serb held for two-all, the American found himself in an another deuce-filled battle, after saving break points and holding game points, Djokovic found a way to break for a 3-2 lead.
The Serbian held for 4-2 and put his stranglehold on the match, breaking for a 5-2 lead. He was able to close it out with an overhead to take the match. He’ll face Philipp Kohlschreiber in the next round.