Johnson saves eight MPs but Djokovic prevails
Former world number one Novak Djokovic rebounded from his Toronto disappointment by outlasting Steve Johnson in the first round of the Cincinnati Masters.
Djokovic's run at the Rogers Cup lasted only until the third round last week as the 13-time grand slam champion was stunned against Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Wimbledon winner and 10th seed, however, regrouped with a hard-fought 6-4 7-6 (7-4) win over American Johnson at the ATP Masters 1000 event on Monday.
Johnson saved eight match points but Djokovic was not to be denied a second-round meeting with Adriano Mannarino.
It was a servers' dual under the lights in Cincinnati, up until the ninth and 10th games of the opening set.
The first real sign of danger saw Djokovic dig himself out of a 0-30 hole before saving a break point to keep the set on serve.
Djokovic - a five-time finalist who is yet to win in Cincinnati - then broke Johnson in a marathon and decisive 10th game as the Serbian star claimed the set on his opponent's racquet.
Johnson did not give much away in the opening set but the American faded in the second, gifting Djokovic an early break at love-40 and a 2-0 lead.
With all the momentum, Djokovic reeled off five successive games to take command before Johnson awoke from his slump.
Johnson broke back to make it 3-3, much to the frustration of Djokovic, who took out his anger on his racquet.
Djokovic lost his way and four consecutive games but he somehow managed to stop the rot and earn five match points, though they were all saved by Johnson.
There were another three match points for Djokovic, including one in the tie-break which was fended off by Johnson, but the former finally put the contest to bed at the ninth time of asking.