x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Djokovic on the march

Novak Djokovic, the world No 3, celebrates his return to action with a 7-6 6-4 victory over France's Jeremy Chardy in the first round of the Marseille Open.

Novak Djokovic, the world No 3, celebrated his return to action with a 7-6 6-4 victory over France's Jeremy Chardy in the first round of the Marseille Open. Djokovic was playing his first match since retiring against American Andy Roddick during their Australian Open quarter-final last month and was pleased with his comeback. "I took some rest after the Australian Open", he Djokovic. "It was hard to get some rhythm because I played against a big server and we were both serving well with a high percentage of first serves.

"It was just a matter of a couple of points that decided the winner," he added. Djokovic next faces Czech Jan Hernych. Gael Monfils, the third seed, made an early exit with a 4-6 6-4 7-5 loss to fellow Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round. Mathieu who will play another compatriot, Michael Llodra, in the second round, Local favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga remains on course for a semi-final meeting with Djokovic after defeating Kazakh Andrey Golubev 7-6 6-2.

Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez were the first two players to reach the quarter-finals, beating Andreas Seppi, of Italy, Dmitry Tursunov respectively. Lleyton Hewitt continued his comeback trail with a 3-6 6-1 6-4 upset of third seed James Blake in the first round of the Memphis Championships. Hewitt, the former US Open and Wimbledon champion, had hip surgery last year in what was the first season in a decade where he failed to capture a title.

He got a big boost in his recovery on Wednesday with a win over the high-ranked American. Hewitt hit six aces in the final set, allowing him to fend-off four break points and then serve for the match. "I served well when I needed to, during the big points and break points," said Hewitt. sport@thenational.ae

Hewitt lost to eventual finalist Mardy Fish in the opening round of last week's San Jose Open. He fell behind early against Blake, dropping the first set but recovered to level the score when Blake struggled with his serve in the second set. A controversial call late in the final set postponed the match for Blake, but Hewitt got over the setback and responded to complete his best match of the year so far.

"I did so much rehab (to get back). If you would have told me in November that I would be moving and hitting the ball as well as I am now I wouldn't have thought it was possible." In other matches, top-seeded American Andy Roddick used 20 aces to knock off Steve Darcis 7-6 6-2. Fish beat Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan 6-1 7-5, while Sam Querrey defeated Tommy Haas 7-6 6-4. Czech fifth-seed Radek Stepanek advanced against Kevin Kim 6-4 6-2, Philipp Petzschner beat Finn Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 6-4 and Robby Ginepri saw off German Simon Greul 6-4 6-4.

Defending champion David Nalbandian put away Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 7-5, 6-2 to set up a quarterfinal with Juan Carlos Ferrero at the Copa Telmex on Wednesday. Top-seeded Nalbandian wasn't in top form, blowing a 5-2 lead in the first set. But he powered up his backhand and rolled into a seventh career matchup with Ferrero on Friday. «I didn't serve very well,» Nalbandian said. «I have to try and be more consistent with my game,» especially against a worthy opponent like Ferrero, he added. «We've known each other for a long time. He's the former world No. 1, a great player and it won't be easy to beat him.» Former French Open champion Ferrero beat seventh-seeded Marcel Granollers 6-7 (7), 6-0, 6-3 to reach his second quarterfinals in two weeks. The unseeded Spaniard also made the top four last week in Brazil. He won the last of his 11 titles in 2003, and has lost nine finals since then. But he's 3-3 against Nalbandian, who won his 10th title last month in Sydney. Third-seeded Tommy Robredo continued his march through the South American clay tournaments by beating Argentine qualifier Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 for the second time this month. Play was halted in the second set for 15 minutes when a stadium light went out, triggering hoots and hollers from the crowd at Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club. After the technical problem was resolved, Chela rallied to take the set 6-3. Robredo then needed to break him three times to win the last set. Robredo beat Chela en route to the Chile semifinals, then won in Brazil last weekend for his eighth career title. The Spaniard added the doubles title, too. Also, Franco Ferreiro, the only Brazilian in the tournament, beat fellow qualifier Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-2, 6-4 to post his second ever win on the main ATP Tour.

*With agencies