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Tennis News • Novak Djokovic Triumphs In Tokyo, Dominic Thiem Takes Beijing Title

By Ricky Dimon

In his first appearance since retiring from a fourth-round match at the U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic began his fall swing with a title at the Rakuten Japan Open on Sunday afternoon. Djokovic completed his flawless run through the Tokyo draw with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of John Millman that lasted one hour and nine minutes.

The world No. 1 from Serbia faced no break points and he struck six aces without double-faulting once. He did not drop a set all week and did not even play a single tiebreaker.

“It was a fantastic week in every sense,” Djokovic noted. “I felt great on the court, felt very welcomed by the Japanese people, off the court as well. They made me feel like at home. (I) didn’t drop a set, played really well, served great; just overall a great experience.”

“It sounds silly to say,” Millman told Djokovic during the trophy ceremony, “but I hope everyone all around the world realizes just how good you are. You’re an absolute champion and you’re the type of person that’s going to be remembered forever. Your legacy is continuing to build and will live on long after you finish playing. But I’m sure you’ve got a fair few more years left.”

At the coinciding 500-point tournament in Beijing, Dominic Thiem triumphed with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Stefanos Tsitsipas. Thiem ventured into the net a surprising 25 times and won 17 of those points while getting the job done in two hours and 11 minutes.

Both men had plenty of chances the whole way, and Tsitsipas even led by a set and a break. The world No. 7 from Greece gave it back at 2-1 in the second before earning a break point at 4-4 that would have allowed him to serve for the championship. But Thiem saved it, raced to a 0-40 lead at 5-4, and then capitalized on his third set point. From there Thiem raced away with the decider, seizing a quick 5-0 advantage and ultimately serving it out to love at 5-1.

“It feels great because today was for me one of the best matches I’ve played in my life,” said the fifth-ranked Austrian, whose China Open title was his first ever in Asia and 15th overall of his career. “Game style wise and also how I came back, it’s definitely one of my biggest titles because the tournament is so strong–the draw was so strong. (It) makes me very happy that I stand as the champion at the end of the week.

“I think today I never went so much to the net in one match before. It’s the right thing to do. I think it’s very important to shorten up points, to finish points at the net.”

“It’s my first good tournament after a while,” said Tsitsipas. “I just need to stay concentrated and not think too big of myself this week. But I have more tournaments to play. Doing well there, too, would prove that I can be consistent.”

Thiem became 2019’s fifth qualifier for the Nitto ATP Finals by reaching the Beijing title match; Tsitsipas is next in line with a chance to seal the deal this coming week in Shanghai.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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