Djokovic Dominates in Tel Aviv
Novak Djokovic is seemingly back to his best after producing a dominant week in Israel to claim his third title of the year.
The 21-time major champion defeated second seed Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 35 minutes to lift the Tel Aviv Watergen Open crown.
The victory capped off a dominant week for Djokovic who didn’t drop a single set on his way to the title.
“I played some very good tennis, I think. I [didn’t] drop a set the entire week,” Djokovic said.
“I hadn’t played a tournament in three months, so it was really extra motivation for me to really do well, particularly because people have been so friendly and so supportive of me throughout the week. I’m taking some great confidence into next week as well.”
Djokovic was on his game from the get-go and raced away with the opening set without facing a break point. The former world No. 1 never let Cilic into the game and was able to dictate rallies to his own advantage.
The Serbian kickstarted the second set by breaking Cilic’s serve, proving to be enough in the end.
Djokovic now leads Cilic 19-2 in their career head-to-head.
Following the match, Djokovic said he felt right at home in Israel - a place he had not played in for over 15 years.
"Just everything really that we experienced this week was positive. The way people treated us when we landed in Israel all the way to the last moments now of our stay here has been truly wonderful and I am very grateful, because it was more than a tournament for me," Djokovic said.
"It was great connections that we established with people, all of us in the team, that we will cherish and will give us positive emotions for what’s coming up."
Nishioka Clinches Seoul Title
Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka capped off a brilliant week in South Korea by claiming the Eugene Korea Open Tennis Championships in Seoul.
The 26-year-old lifted his second career ATP title with a brilliant performance to down Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 7-6(5) in an hour and 55 minutes.
It was always going to be difficult for Nishioka to outmuscle Shapovalov, so he played to his strengths and produced a great defensive performance to get the victory.
The Japanese only hit 14 winners for the match but more importantly, he only conceded just 10 unforced errors compared to 31 from his opponent.
“This week was amazing for me," said Nishioka after the match.
"I played very well on the court, my mentality and attitude. I just focused on the play, which was very important I think. A couple of matches it was very close, but I played very well, tried to figure out how to beat the opponent, and every match I fought. I needed to play like this in all the matches [so that] I had a chance to beat each of the players.”
Nishioka was gifted the first set thanks to a sloppy volley by Shapovalov on set point, a mistake that seemed to fire up the Canadian.
Shapovalov came out of the blocks firing in the second set and took a 3-1 lead to gain control. However, as he so often did in the opening set, Nishioka hung around and forced Shapovalov into making errors and worked his way back into the contest.
Nishioka finished the match in better order to eventually come out on top in a tiebreak and lift his first ATP title since 2018.
“I think my returning was great today," said Nishioka.
"I know he has a big serve and a big forehand, but I didn’t need to worry about that if it was too good. I just focused on playing many balls and putting pressure on him, and if I had chances to just go for it. But first of all, just make a lot of balls, and hit a lot to his backhand, and try to move him.”
Nishioka jumped 15 places to No. 41 in the world following the title.
Huesler Claims Maiden ATP Title in Sofia
Switzerland’s Marc-Andrea Huesler joined the long list of ATP champions following his groundbreaking week in Bulgaria.
Huesler lifted his maiden title in his first tour final at the Sofia Open after defeating rising Danish youngster Holger Rune 6-4, 7-6(8) in an hour and 41 minutes.
"I played a great, great match for sure," Huesler said in his on-court interview.
"I am completely taken aback. I am lost for words. it was a great match. I just tried to stay focused, stayed calm and I am just really happy I was able to make it.
It was a huge week for Huesler, overcoming top 30 players Holger Rune and Lorenzo Musetti, as well as knocking over world No. 15 Pablo Carreno Busta.
“I would definitely say the conditions here suit me" said Huesler after the match.
"I already felt that two years ago here, when I played a good level of tennis, beating [Nikoloz] Basilashvili before losing to [Jannik] Sinner.
"I’m feeling good here… My game is based on my serve a lot and I think that indoor here, I am really able to put a lot of pressure on the opponent that way, and the way I was volleying this week, I surprised myself as well.”
With the victory, Huesler has moved up 31 places to sit at No. 64 in the ATP rankings.
“This whole week has been a complete fairy tale for me,” added Huesler at the trophy ceremony.
“I would have been happy to pass a couple of rounds and I’m holding the trophy here.”