In a match played in front of a hostile Toronto crowd cheering for the hometown boy and under dark skies threatening more rain, Novak Djokovic managed to find a way through to the third round of the Rogers Cup.
The Serb was up against some strong hitting from Toronto-native Peter Polansky, but the three-time Rogers Cup champion managed to poke some holes in the Canadians serve late in both sets to escape the match in straights 6-3, 6-4.
Djokovic overcomes early struggles
Thanks to the stubborn rain in Toronto, the match did not get underway until nearly an hour after its original start time. Djokovic looked a little sluggish in the opening game, falling behind love-30. That seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the Wimbledon champion, who promptly won four straight points to hold.
Despite being the massive underdog, Polansky was looking impressive in the early stages, standing up to Djokovic well with some big hitting from the baseline. While easily defending his own serve, the Canadian had another half-chance of the Serb’s serve at 3-all, pushing him to deuce multiple times although he was unable to create a break point.
After avoiding the threat for seven games, Djokovic turned the tables thanks to a sudden dip from Polansky. As if the missed opportunities were weighing heavily on his mind, the Canadian committed a series of errors in his next service game to dig himself into a love-40 hole. He would double fault to give away the love break and put Djokovic within a game of victory. The Serb would promptly hold to take the set 6-3.
Polansky cracks late
The second set followed a similar script to the opener, with Polansky doing well to stand up to Djokovic in the rallies. Through eight games, the pair exchanged body blows from the baseline, although neither was able to make any inroads on their opponent’s serve.
Much like the opening set, it was a late collapse from Polansky that made the difference. Serving at 4-all, he committed three straight unforced errors to give Djokovic another triple break opening. This time, it was the Serb blinking, missing a return then sending a forehand wide before some strong attacking from Polansky managed to level the game at deuce.
The threat was not averted, however, as more errors from the Canadian gave the former number one more chances. On the fifth break point of the game, Polansky sent a forehand long to give Djokovic a 5-4 lead. With some more dark clouds threatening over head, the 2016 Toronto champion put the match away with a hold.
By the numbers
Getting first serves in is always important when playing against Novak Djokovic and it was one big area where Polansky dropped the ball in this match. The Canadian only put 50 percent of his first serves in play, and while he won 71 percent of those points, he only won 50 percent of his second serves. Djokovic defended his own serve very well, winning 83 percent of his first serve points and never allowing a break point in the match.
Djokovic will meet the winner of the blockbuster second-round clash between Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round.