Defending champion Novak Djokovic targets his ninth straight win to launch the season when he takes on Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the Australian Open third round on Friday.
Novak Djokovic ?? vs Yoshihito Nishioka ?? Match Info
Date: Friday January 24
Tournament: Australian Open R3
Court: Rod Laver Arena
Time: 2.00pm local time (3.00am GMT)
Novak Djokovic vs Yoshihito Nishioka Head-to-Head
Djokovic leads 1-0
2019 | Davis Cup Finals RR | Djokovic 6-1 6-2
Novak Djokovic vs Yoshihito Nishioka Match Preview
Djokovic will face a Japanese opponent for the second match in a row at the Australian Open after brushing aside wildcard Tatsuma Ito in the second round on Wednesday.
In difficult conditions, it was Djokovic who was far more reliable from the baseline, but more impressively, on serve, with the Serbian firing 16 aces and losing just 11 points behind his delivery, winning 93 per cent of first-serve points. Ito managed to keep it close in the second set with some flat ball-striking, but Djokovic was never in any danger as the defending champion cruised to a 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 22, 2020
Djokovic said he’d been putting in extra practice sessions during the off-season in regards to his serving and was delighted that it was paying off so far in his eight wins for 2020.
”My serve was working extremely well in the first round and second round. That’s something I worked on in the off-season,” Djokovic said.
“That’s one of the priorities of the training sessions, trying to get that advantage of winning a lot of easy points on the first serve. It’s been paying off so far in the ATP Cup and two matches here.”
It’s been the perfect start to the season for Djokovic, especially after his tough finish to 2019 in which he was forced to retire from the U.S. Open and lost in the group stage of the ATP Finals, relinquishing the No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal as a result.
Indeed, Djokovic is 8-0 to kick off a brand new decade of tennis, scoring a number of great wins during Serbia’s run to the ATP Cup final, including knockout victories over Denis Shapovalov, Daniil Medvedev and Nadal in the final, beating his Spanish rival in straight sets in what could be a prelude to the Australian Open final.
Djokovic of course crushed Nadal in routine fashion in the 2019 Australian Open final, and he remains the firm favourite to make it a record eighth title at Melbourne Park this fortnight. Still, he will have to be on guard against one of the quickest players on tour in the third round.
Nishioka hit his career-high ranking of No. 58 in 2017 after he made the quarter-finals in Acapulco and the fourth round of the Indian Wells Masters as a lucky loser, but then disaster struck, with the Japanese tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee the following week in Miami. Nishioka required surgery and missed the rest of the season, falling to as low as No. 380 in the world.
However, the 24-year-old returned with fresh determination in 2018, and his hard work was rewarded towards the end of the season as he won his first ATP title in Shenzhen as a qualifier ranked No. 171 in the world, defeating Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the final. Nishioka also won a couple of Challenger titles as he worked his way back onto the ATP World Tour – something he did successfully in 2019, recording a career-high 19 wins, including the biggest of his career over compatriot Kei Nishikori en route to the Cincinnati Masters quarter-finals.
Nishioka also made the fourth round of Indian Wells for a second time, ending the season at No. 73 in the world. The Japanese started his season at the ATP Cup in Perth, defeating Pablo Cuevas and Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets before pushing Nadal in two tight sets, while he retired in the third round of the Bendigo Challenger, but that was probably due to the smoke, because he’s been on fire so far at the Australian Open, beating Laslo Djere and the in-form Dan Evans to reach the third round of a major for the first time.
Novak Djokovic vs Yoshihito Nishioka Prediction
I’ve been really impressed with Nishioka this season and if he were playing anyone other than the ‘Big Three’, I think he’d have an excellent shot of making the second week. However, he will need to be redlining for over four hours if he is to beat Djokovic, and that type of tennis simply isn’t sustainable for someone of Nishioka’s game style. I think he’ll keep one set very close, but it’s shaping as another straight sets win for the defending champion.