MASON — Novak Djokovic smacked his racket on the court after losing serve, seemingly headed for another unexplainable loss at a tournament that has eluded him. In the end, he stopped fuming and started playing like the best.
The top-ranked Serb rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the final set to a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory over David Goffin on Thursday, reaching the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open. Serena Williams also advanced while losing only two games in her match.
Djokovic has never won Cincinnati. He’s trying to become the first player to win all nine ATP Masters events in a career.
“It was a solid first set, but whatever happened in the next 45 minutes — I don’t want to remember it,” Djokovic said. “I wasn’t on the court. You know, I just lost the intensity and concentration. Luckily for me, I managed to bounce back, dig myself out of this hole I was in.”
With things falling apart in the second set, Djokovic slammed his racket three times, drawing a warning. And it kept getting worse against Goffin, a 24-year-old Belgian who is 1-20 against top-10 players. Finally, Djokovic pulled himself together and pulled it out.
“I will try to take the positive out of this match, and the positive is the last six games of the match,” he said.
Djokovic will face fifth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, who beat him for the French Open title. Wawrinka pulled out a 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) win after Ivo Karlovic double-faulted on match point, his second serve hitting the top of the net.
Also, No. 6 Tomas Berdych beat Tommy Robredo 6-0, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals. He’ll face qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov, who beat Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Jerzy Janowicz.
On the women’s side, Williams needed only 54 minutes to beat Karin Knapp 6-0, 6-2. She lost just 12 points while winning the first nine games.
Williams, the defending Cincinnati champion, is using the tournament as a final tuneup for the U.S. Open, where she’ll try to complete a calendar Grand Slam sweep. Her quarterfinals opponent is Ana Ivanovic, who beat Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Williams beat Ivanovic in straight sets to win her first Cincinnati title last year.
“It will be a really good match for me and kind of test where I am, you know, just in general,” Williams said. “Yeah, so I look forward to that.”
A right forearm injury forced Swiss teen Belinda Bencic to withdraw after she dropped the first set against seventh-seeded Lucie Safarova. The 12th-seeded Bencic said she didn’t think the injury was very serious, but it was too soon to know if she could play in next week’s tournament at New Haven, Connecticut.
“I wasn’t 100 percent, and to beat Lucie or even compete against her, you have to be 100 percent,” she said. “I didn’t want to retire. This was the first I’ve ever had to retire. I hope it gets better.”
The 18-year-old said her forearm has been sore for some time.
“Every match, it was getting tighter and tighter,” she said. “I was hoping that a lot of (therapy) would help, but I couldn’t do it.”
Bencic was coming off the biggest moment of her brief career. She upset Williams in the semifinals at Toronto last week and went on to win the tournament.