By Tucker Verdi
Novak Djokovic’s journey back to the top of the sport is a long one, something he knew when he decided to enter into Indian Wells and the Miami Open back-to-back.
A second consecutive second round exit probably wasn’t what he had in mind, however, when he walked onto Stadium Court to take on the 47th-ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire.
But it’s exactly what he got when he hit a forehand into the net to seal Paire’s 6-3, 6-4 win that took just a little over an hour.
“I felt I started the match well, first six games, then I just ran out of gas,” the 12-time Grand Slam winner explained. “I just wasn’t able to break him down. He was just coming up with the good shots at the right time.”
Asked whether he thought he had a chance of winning when he stepped onto the court, responding, “I wouldn’t go out on the court if I don’t believe I can win a tennis match.
“I love this sport,” he added. “Unfortunately I’m not at the level they would like to see me at and I would like to see myself at. But it is what it is. Life goes on.”
Play went on, as well, following his loss, with No. 2 seed Marin Cilic coasting into the third round and third-seeded Grigor Dmitrov coming back from a first set loss to fend off Maximillian Marterer 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro escaped a marathon challenge by veteran player Robin Haase. The two engaged in furious rallies and each tried their hand at pumping up the crowd before the 2009 US Open champ del Potro came out on top 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. He aims to advance to his second consecutive Masters final following his win over World No. 1 Roger Federer in Indian Wells.
A pair of Americans – Michael Mmoh and Jared Donaldson – upset a pair of ranked Spaniards in Roberto Bautista Agut (No. 12) and Feliciano Lopez (No. 25), respectively, to advance to the third round. Donaldson breezed through his match with the 36-year-old Lopez 6-4, 6-2, while Mmoh – a qualifier – outlasted Bautista Agut in three sets and almost three hours by a score of 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4.
No. 7 seed David Goffin was on and off the court in just over an hour, losing his first match back since being hit in the eye with a tennis ball in Stuttgart to Joao Sousa 6-0, 6-1.
For full results of the day’s action, visit miamiopen.com/2018-results.