With 41 notable ATP titles on hard, Novak Djokovic is the most decorated player on tennis' most common surface. The Serb has won 41 big crowns on hard, including 11 Majors, 25 Masters 1000 events and five ATP Finals, standing as the player to beat with a mighty impressive 592-110 ratio.
Novak would have been on 600 ATP wins on hard by now but the coronavirus had some other plans with this season. The pandemic had halted the action for almost six months, keeping the competitors away from the court until this week when they have gathered in New York, playing the first Masters 1000 event of the season (Cincinnati).
Standing on those 592 wins, Djokovic had shared the second place on the Open era list together with Andre Agassi, passing the American following the second-round triumph in Cincinnati. Novak should become the second player with 600 ATP wins on hard after Roger Federer (782) next week at the US Open, standing as the favorite for the fourth Major crown in New York.
Struggling with a neck injury, Novak didn't play at his best against Ricardas Berankis in that first match following the title he claimed in Dubai in February, prevailing 7-6, 6-4 to move in front of Andre Agassi. The Serb had 17 winners (only one from his backhand) and as many unforced errors, with Berankis hitting 22 winners and more than 30 mistakes, keeping the points on his racquet but failing to win at least a set.
Djokovic had a small advantage in the shortest, mid-range and most extended exchanges, doing enough to cross the finish line and save energy for the upcoming encounters. Novak held with a forehand winner in the first game, creating a break chance in the next one that Ricardas saved with a beautiful backhand down the line winner, avoiding an early setback and gathering confidence.
Djokovic brought the third game home at love with a forehand winner before Berankis earned two break chances at 2-2 after a forehand crosscourt winner.
Novak Djokovic has won 595 ATP matches on hard in a career.
Staying calm, world no.
1 saved both with service winners to bring the game home, unable to make damage on the return, as Berankis held at love to level the score at 3-3. The Lithuanian grabbed a break in the seventh game, wasting a game point that could have pushed him 5-3 up and allowing Novak to break back following a loose forehand.
Both players served well in the remaining four games to set up a tie break, with Djokovic earning two mini-breaks to open a 3-0 lead. The Serb closed the set with a service winner at 6-2, receiving a medical timeout ahead of set number two.
Berankis opened it with a break at 1-0, staying in front only for a couple of minutes as Novak broke back at love with a forehand winner. The Lithuanian fended off a break chance in the fifth game to stay on the scoreboard's positive side, securing another break at love in game six when Djokovic netted a backhand.
Novak had to react quickly, pulling the break back to reduce the deficit and holding at 15 to lock the result at 4-4. With the momentum on his side, Djokovic broke at 15 in game nine and sealed the deal with a hold at 15 at 5-4, taking 16 of the last 21 points.
In the next two rounds, Djokovic defeated Tennys Sandgren and Jan-Lennard Struff to secure the semi-final's place, facing Roberto Bautista Agut later on Friday.