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Novak Djokovic rallies; Naomi Osaka starts well at BNP Paribas Open

Novak Djokovic rallies; Naomi Osaka starts well at BNP Paribas Open
Novak Djokovic reacts to the crowd while playing against Bjorn Fratangelo at the BNP Paribas Open. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Novak Djokovic had a slow start Saturday but his swift and triumphant ending was what mattered. The world’s No. 1 player came to life after being down 3-5 to American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo in the first set and went on to earn a 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory at Stadium Court 1, Djokovic’s 50th win at the BNP Paribas Open.

“I was a bit rusty in the first set,” Djokovic said of not competing for five weeks. “I was fortunate to get through this one.”

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Djokovic is a five-time champion at this tournament and last won in 2016. That year, like this one, he drew Fratangelo as his first opponent after he got a first-round bye. Fratangelo took the first set from him three years ago but was stymied this time despite taking a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker.

Djokovic finished with 28 winners and 20 unforced errors. His next opponent will be Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

Osaka prevails

Naomi Osaka began her ascent to No. 1 in the world by winning here last year before adding titles at the U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open. Returning to the place where it all began, she had an intriguing perspective before the tournament started.

“I don’t really believe in defending. I believe in getting another one, you know?” she said.

She took her first step toward another title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kristina Mladenovic.

Her third-round opponent will be No. 25 Danielle Collins of the U.S., who beat Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-4, 6-1.

Venus rises

Venus Williams had reason for concern after she lost the first set and was down a double break in the second set of her second-round match against No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova.

“Not ideal against a great server, especially a left-handed server,” Williams said.

But that only seemed to inspire her, and she rallied for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory.

“Honestly, it seemed like I played even better when I was down. I really didn’t have any other choice because she was playing so well and serving so well,” said Williams, who is unseeded.

Kvitova was baffled by the momentum swing.

“Suddenly, I was, like, playing, but I wasn’t really there. It was such a weird feeling,” she said.

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Williams’ third-round opponent will be qualifier Christina McHale, a three-set winner over No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Kerber breezes

No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany routed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-2 to advance to the third round. Kerber will face Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia, who upset No. 26 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-2, 6-0.

However, No. 17 Madison Keys was ousted by unseeded Mona Barthel of Germany, who came back to win 3-6, 6-1, 7-5. Keys has been slowed by injuries since her 2017 U.S. Open final loss to Sloane Stephens.

“It’s been frustrating, honestly, for the last three years, it feels like, battling things,” Keys said. “It feels like I am finally in a position I can play more matches and more tournaments and get some momentum.”

No. 11 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia defeated American wild-card entrant Madison Brengle in straight sets; No. 13 Caroline Wozniacki was upset by unseeded Ekaterina Alexandrovna 7-5, 2-6, 7-5, and No. 25 Danielle Collins of the U.S. beat Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-4, 6-1.

By the numbers

No. 31 seed Nick Kyrgios, who subdued a stellar field to win an event last week in Acapulco, was upended by Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-4.

Kyrgios, known for his temper, smashed his racquet and threw his shoes into the crowd after he lost the first set to the precise Kohlschreiber.

“Just couldn’t get anything going today. I didn’t really feel comfortable on serve,” Kyrgios said.

No. 3 Alexander Zverev advanced when Martin Klizan retired because of an injury with Zverev leading 6-3, 2-0, and Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 40, reeled off 20 aces in defeating the No. 11 seed, 22-year-old Borna Coric 6-4, 7-6 (2), also of Croatia.

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