Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a return against Croatia’s Mate Pavic and Brazil’s Bruno Soares in their men’s doubles round of 16 match at the ATP Japan Open Tennis tournament in Tokyo on September 30, 2019. (AFP)
Novak Djokovic's return from injury had a stuttering start at the Japan Open, with defeat Monday in the opening round of doubles.
Yet for the No. 1-ranked Djokovic, playing at the tournament for the first time, the result was less important than emerging from the match unscathed.
Djokovic had not played since retiring with an injured left shoulder in his U.S. Open fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka, who was leading 6-4, 7-5, 2-1.
The fourth-seeded pair of Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares beat a rusty Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 4-6, 10-4 in sweltering heat on the Colosseum show court at a revamped Ariake Tennis Forest Park. The venue will stage the Olympic tennis tournament next year.
''One of the reasons for playing the doubles was that I wanted to see how the shoulder feels during match play,'' Djokovic said. ''Obviously, doubles is quite different from singles, but you're still playing an official match - you still get the nerves, and have to battle on court.
''There was a lot of serving and returning, slow balls and fast balls, but it seems like my shoulder is fine after that, so I'm hoping that's going to be the case for the singles.''
Djokovic said it was good to play in Tokyo, ''because I want to win the Olympic Games next year.''
''I can get a feel for the court and the conditions, but the tournament will be played a bit earlier than this, at an even warmer time and higher humidity - you have to mentally accept that and then prepare yourself,'' he said. ''Hopefully I can come here early for the Olympic tournament and fully prepare myself.''
Djokovic kicks off his singles campaign on Tuesday against Australia's Alexei Popyrin and - if successful - will meet local wildcard entry Go Soeda in the second round.
The 133rd-ranked Soeda caused an upset when he beat Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Fifth-seeded Lucas Pouille also advanced to the second round, where he will meet Yoshihito Nishioka or Joao Sousa - who play later Monday - after easing to a 6-4, 6-3 win over Poland's Hubert Hurkacz.
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