Shanghai - Imperious
Novak Djokovic declared that he was "a completely different player"
from the first half of this year after he beat France's Jeremy Chardy
6-3, 7-5 to roll into the Shanghai Masters third round on Tuesday.
The rejuvenated Serbian second seed has now won all 12 matches against Chardy and this victory was never in doubt.
The 31-year-old Djokovic had to contend with a more stubborn Chardy
in the second set, before the world number three's superior shot-making
won through in 83 minutes.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion missed six months of competition in 2017 and had elbow surgery in February.
But he has burst back to form and fitness since the summer, winning
Wimbledon, the US Open and the Masters 1000 Cincinnati in a terrific
run, and says he is back close to his best.
Djokovic, who is eyeing Rafael Nadal's number one ranking, said: "I haven't won too many matches the beginning of the year.
"After the surgery I was not managing to play my best, and that has
changed, so obviously the more you win, the more comfortable and more
confident you feel on the court."
The Serb will play either Italy's Marco Cecchinato or South Korea's
Chung Hyeon next - he lost to both during his darker days in the first
half of the year.
"I think I'm a completely different player than I was in first five, six months of the year," he said.
"Hopefully the outcome can be different as well."
In the absence of the injured Nadal, holder Roger Federer is the top
seed in Shanghai and the Swiss great starts his campaign on Wednesday
against Russia's Daniil Medvedev.
Nikoloz Basilashvili showed that his China Open triumph at the
weekend was no fluke as he brushed aside the promising Denis Shapovalov.
The Georgian, up to a career-high 23 in the world following his
victory over Juan Martin del Potro in Beijing on Sunday, beat the
teenage Canadian 6-2, 6-2 in just 57 minutes.
The 26-year-old Basilashvili will now have another upset in his
sights when he plays fourth seed Alexander Zverev at the Masters 1000
event on Wednesday.
Basilashvili's victory over an under-the-weather Del Potro at the
weekend was just his second ATP title, the first coming in Hamburg in
Del Potro, the Shanghai third seed who was suffering with a cold and flu in Beijing, meets France's Richard Gasquet.
A press conference for the Argentine on Tuesday was cancelled at the
last moment, however, which suggests that he could still be unwell.
Austria's Dominic Thiem became the biggest casualty so far when the
sixth seed was stunned by Matthew Ebden in a thrilling three-set
The Australian finally emerged 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/4) for the biggest scalp of his career.