Novak in Masters' cruise control

Novak Djokovic had a smooth start at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, beating Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-5 to ease into the third round of the ATP 1000 tournament.

Chinese wildcard Zhang Ze was edged out yesterday by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev after a hard-fought first-round match at Qizhong Tennis Center, Shanghai.

Novak Djokovic had a smooth start at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, beating Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-5 to ease into the third round of the ATP 1000 tournament.

The second-seeded Serb, who was 11-0 in matches and 26-0 up in sets against his French opponent prior to their meet in Shanghai, had to contend with a more stubborn Chardy in the second set before his superb shot-making got him through the 83-minute match.

“I’m playing at a high level, very close to the best,” said the 14-time Grand Slam champion. “I got three to four days of good-quality practice here. The courts are still fast as I expected, so one has to be on alert all the time and react quickly. I’m happy to execute everything as I planned when playing against Jeremy.”

Djokovic wrote the Chinese character “De” on the camera after the victory, which is also one of the five characters of his name in Chinese. Writing Chinese on a camera lens has become a regular way to celebrate for the Serb in Shanghai.

“I’m practicing new Chinese characters, and hope I can do that after my next match,” Djokovic said.

The Serb will take on the winner between Marco Cecchinato from Italy and Hyeon Chung from South Korea in the third round.

Earlier in the day at Qizhong Tennis Center, China’s wildcard holder Zhang Ze was edged by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 after a hard-fought first-round match which lasted for two hours and 26 minutes. The defeat denied him the chance to challenge Roger Federer in the second round, whom he partnered in the doubles two years ago in Shanghai.

Zhang performed well, taking the first set 6-3. It was level at 5-5 in the second set before Medvedev broke Zhang for a 6-5 advantage. Zhang broke back to push the set into tie-break, which the Russian took at the third set point of asking.

In the deciding set, Zhang took a 4-3 advantage but couldn’t convert two break points in the eighth, allowing Medvedev to tie at 4-4. The Russian then broke Zhang in the ninth game and eventually went on to serve out the match.

Medvedev was only two days removed from capturing an ATP 500 title in Japan. The 22-year-old is ranked at a career-high of 22 after beating two-time champion and local favorite Kei Nishikori for the Tokyo title.

Medvedev hailed his Chinese opponent after the contest.

“He was playing unbelievable, like top 20 for me. Making winners, serving about 220km,” he said. “I never did a serve of 220km in my life and he did it like five times today.”

Zhang, ranked 216, had to swallow a 0-9 record in main draw matches at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, though the 28-year-old was happy with his performance yesterday.

“I have given everything I had in today’s match,” said Zhang. “It’s a pity in the sense I played a beautiful match, but didn’t get a victory. I’m in very good form, but was half a step away from victory. It’s a pity that I lost the opportunity to play with Federer, to see what is the difference between us.

“We are among the early generation in the development of China men’s tennis. With more and more attention on the younger generation, players like us are really cherishing every opportunity given, including the wildcards, which is really appreciated.”

Zhang’s elimination left 18-year-old Wu Yibing the only Chinese player in this year’s tournament. Wu is taking on Asia’s top ranked Kei Nishikori in a second-round match today.

In other matches of the day, Nikoloz Basilashvili, winner of last week’s China Open, eased past Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-2 in their first-round meet. The Georgian is ranked a career-high No. 23 after beating Juan Martin del Potro for the title in Beijing.

Australia’s Matthew Ebden saw off sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem from Austria 6-4, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (4). French qualifier Benoit Paire upset 15th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta from Spain 6-3, 6-4. Another Frenchman Richard Gasquet ousted his Argentine opponent Leonardo Mayer 1-6, 6-2, 6-1. Britain’s 11th seed Kyle Edmund defeated Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 6-3.

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