Kyle Edmund def. Novak Djokovic  6-2, 2-6, 6-3
Marching straight into press following his three-set defeat at the hands of British No. 1 Kyle Edmund, Novak Djokovic is still searching for that run of matches that will start to give him the match-play confidence he needs as the second Slam of the year approaches.
In the first set, he was caught napping by the Brit as he raced to the lead, but we saw more of the glimpses of the Djokovic of old, as he handed back an equally emphatic lesson, levelling the match with a double-break cushion.
However, three wasted break point chances was all that was needed to turn the tide. Edmund made the most of his chance to break when it came and underline his step up in big-stage moments serving out the match to love.
After his first-round match, he admitted that getting the ‘old band’ back together was going to take time to translate that into stitching his game back together. Each tournament, perhaps with the exception of Barcelona has seen him test out his mettle against tough opponents.
But it must be a worrying stat for him that he has yet to come through a best-of-three decider.
He said, after his match: “There are obvious things that are not working well for me. But I have to keep working on them and pray that — and hope that my game will get stronger, get better as definitely as the matches, you know, go the distance.
“Especially such big tournaments against quality players, you’ve got to, you know, step in. I tried but obviously, yeah, wasn’t to be today. Hopefully, next one.”
Edmund ‘playing the tennis of his life’
Having dealt with Edmund rather handily in the past, Djokovic admitted there was a lot of improvement, as we should expect after Edmund made his run to the semi-final of the Australian Open this year.
Djokovic said: “He has improved his backhand. His forehand is obviously his weapon and he has been using it very well, backing up the serve with that forehand. Backhand, he has improved his backhand, down the line. Couple important points he won with that shot today.
“Obviously new coach and someone I’ve known for many years. He worked with Ancic. He is a very good coach, you know. Definitely Kyle is playing the best tennis of his life.”
“He was courageous enough to attack the balls when it mattered, and he deserved to win.”
While the disappointment at going out of a Masters tournament in just the second round was palpable, the fire is definitely there to expect far more of himself. With points from reaching the Rome final to defend next week, there is not much time to ruminate on his early exit.
“It’s not the end of the world, you know. Obviously, I’ve played this sport so many years and had a bunch of success. I try to always remind myself and be grateful for that.
“At the same time, nobody is forcing me to play this sport. I do it because I like it. I want to do it. And that’s something also that makes me fortunate to play the sport.
“That’s where I draw my strength. As long as I keep going, as long as I love the sport, I’ll keep going.”
Djokovic will play the Rome Masters, which takes place between 13-20 May.
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