TOKYO, Oct 2: Novak Djokovic stepped up a gear at the Japan Open on Wednesday, fending off a tough challenge from Japanese wild card Go Soeda 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the quarterfinal.
The World No. 1 said he had no problems with the injured shoulder which forced him out of the US Open as he looked to face either French fifth-seed Lucas Pouille or Japan�s Yoshihito Nishioka at the Ariake Colosseum, a venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Djokovic was cruising to a victory until late in the second set when the 35-year-old Japanese player put on a tenacious fight while the Serb began missing many of his first serves, reducing his lead to 5-4 before Soeda made it 5-5.
But Djokovic snapped back in form and took the final two games without giving a single point to the Japanese, ending the match in just over 90 minutes.
�Obviously, I was pleased to get that done in two (sets),� Djokovic said. �We must give credit to Go Soeda, who played a really good match, fought hard, made me work for my win today.
�For my side, I am really pleased. Probably I played even on a higher level than the first round. So the game is going to the right direction for sure,� he said.
�I played now three days in a row,� he said. �Everything is fine.�
Elsewhere in the tournament, third-seed David Goffin of Belgium came from behind in a dramatic first-round victory against Spanish player Pablo Carreno Busta 1-6, 7-6 (8), 6-0.
Their gruelling battle, the first match of the day, lasted over two hours in blazing heat, as Goffin clung on to the match to take the second set that ended with a dramatic tie-break.
After that, Carreno Busta could not find much left in himself and gave up the third set.
�It was a great fight. Such a tough opponent,� said Goffin, who will now face Denis Shapovalov of Canada.
�In the end, I am happy to go to the second round,� Goffin said.
Australian qualifier John Millman defeated Adrian Mannarino of France 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. � AFP