Djokovic’s ominous warning to rivals as he details advantage of ban

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Novak Djokovic fired a warning to the rest of his rivals on the ATP Tour after producing another dominant display to reach the quarter-final of the Astana Open. The world No 7 is playing just his second tournament in three months and admitted that his ban from this summer’s US Open had helped him feel physically fresh for the end of the season.

Djokovic is on a 13-match winning streak after defeating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-1 in 71 minutes on Thursday. Now through to the quarter-finals in Astana, the 35-year-old has not lost a match since the French Open quarter-final in May.

His record has been helped in part by his ban from the North American hard-court swing, with Djokovic unable to play the US Open or the two Masters events in Cincinnati and Canada as a resuly of his unvaccinated status. And the fifth seed in Astana has appears to be taking the positives from his ban, which has helped him remain physically fresher than the rest of his rivals on the tour.

“Well my season is different from any,” he laughed, speaking after his second-round win at the Astana Open. “So don’t look at my season as a comparison to other players’ seasons, I obviously haven’t played for three months any official tournament before Israel,” he added, referencing last week’s Tel Aviv Open which he won.

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Firing a warning to his upcoming opponents, Djokovic added: “I definitely am physically fresh and mentally motivated to do well.” The world No 7 won his 89th career title in Tel Aviv last week, and is hoping to make it number 90 in Kazakhstan.

He is also bidding to qualify for the ATP Finals, and needs to finish in the top 20 of the race to earn himself a spot instead of in the regular top eight as a result of his Grand Slam title win at Wimbledon. Djokovic can secure his space by winning this week’s Astana Open, and looks in with a good chance following his convincing performance against the world No 36 on Thursday.

Evaluating his performance after the match, the fifth seed said: “Well I think my serve worked very well when I needed to get out of trouble in the first set, particularly there were some 30-30 games and when I broke his serve at 4-2 I faced a break point, I came in and he had a look at that passing shot and he missed it.”

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Admitting that his service hold at 4-2 made a big difference, Djokovic added: “Look, the match is decided in these moments. You know, 5-2 and 4-3 up is a big difference.

“I served well to end the first set. In the second set I started to read his serve better and just started to swinging through the court more. Botic is a quality tennis player, when he has time he can hurt you so I tried to take away that time from him, make him uncomfortable and I’m very pleased [with] the way I played, particularly in the second.”

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