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Defending Champion Djokovic Tested in Second Round

03.28.2015

By Steve Gorten

KEY BISCAYNE – Novak Djokovic plopped into his courtside chair frustrated.

The world’s No. 1 men’s player should have showered by now, but instead he was preparing for a winner-take-all third set against Martin Klizan -- and Klizan had all the momentum.

Djokovic said he knew he’d been in this situation before many times. And he knew he would regroup, settle down and “definitely elevate my performance.” He was certain of that.

So he stood up, walked back onto the court and seized the third set almost as decisively as he did the first.

Djokovic dispatched Klizan 6-0, 5-7, 6-1 Saturday night at the 2015 Miami Open, advancing to the third round of the tournament he has won three of the past four years.

“The first match in this tournament, it’s always tricky playing against a quality opponent like Martin,” said Novak, who had a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed. “I knew that. I did lose that concentration and intensity that I had in the first set and the beginning of the second and I paid the dividends. Luckily for me, I managed to find a way.”

Djokovic smoked Klizan in the first set, winning six games in a mere 21 minutes. And he was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second when he surrendered not just that game, but three more in a row.

“Sometimes that’s the way it goes. This is sport. It’s difficult to play from the first to the last point the way I played in the first set,” Djokovic said. “I knew he was going to start playing better once he gets into the match, once he finds a comfortable feeling on the court.”

As Klizan started stroking the ball well and winning long baseline rallies, Djokovic admittedly “got a little tight” late in the second set. The crowd had started chanting, “Let’s go Martin, let’s go!” and Klizan was dictating play. Then on set point, the 25-year-old Slovakian served an ace down the middle.

“I was frustrated. There was no doubt about that,” Djokovic added. “Every athlete goes through ups and downs and various emotions during matches like this. It’s important always to regroup and maintain that self-belief and composure because that’s something that always gives you a [win]. …I knew I was going to come back and start playing better because I’ve been in this situation.”

Djokovic credited Klizan for “battling and making me play some extra shots” in the second set. He said he expected a tough match from the left-hander, ranked No. 41 in the world.

“I knew that he has nothing to lose and he’s very solid from both forehand and backhand. He can hit shots very well,” Djokovic said. “He’s a bit of an unpredictable player because he can make a lot of unforced errors. But on the other hand, he can also make a lot of winners and make you play.”

Tested in his opener, Djokovic now will face Belgium qualifier Steve Darcis, who advanced Saturday with a 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win against Gilles Muller.

“I haven’t seen him play much. I know he’s struggled with injuries,” Djokovic said of Darcis. “But in his junior days, very talented player. Another player that has nothing to lose. And it’s going one of his few matches that he has played on center stage. I’ve got to be going out on the court and playing the way I played in the first and third sets, and I have a good chance to win.”