Bouncing on his toes, Novak Djokovic bopped in step with the ball before popping his elastic body into a full spin, coming to a stop with a grin and wave.
All that activity occurred in Djokovic’s most-match dance party with the tournament’s tennis ball mascot. Why the festive mood? The world No. 1 needed only 55 minutes to high-step his way into the Rogers Cup round of 16 with a 6-2, 6-1 dismissal of Florian Mayer.
It was Djokovic’s first match since losing to Andy Murray in last month’s Wimbledon final. The two-time defending hampion looked fit, played fast—for the most part—and controlled the court as if he had choreographed points with the ball beforehand in extending his Rogers Cup winning streak to 11 matches.
Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” blared from the stadium speakers during the warm-up; Djokovic spent much of the match displacing Mayer. The Serbian hit more than three times as many winners (22 to 6) and saved all seven break points he faced.
Djokovic opened the season sweeping the Australian Open and Dubai in succession. Since then, he’s won just one title, but he looked relaxed in working off the rust against an opponent he’s dominated, winning all four of their prior meetings without dropping a set. Djokovic saved a break point in the opening game and two more break points in his second service game to hold for 3-0 after Mayer donated a break by netting a pair of volleys.
Moving fluidly, Djokovic began to get into the groove in the fifth game, stringing together a service winner, an exquisite backhand drop volley winner, and a slashing ace down the middle, holding at love for 4-1. Ravaging the German’s second serve in the first set, Djokovic won 70 percent of points played on Mayer’s serve in the opener. Drilling a backhand return down the line, Djokovic sent a lilting drop volley winner for triple set point and closed the 28-minute opener when Mayer dumped a double-fault into net.
The 29-year-old German was playing for his 200th career win, but found himself often a step behind and a shot short against Djokovic. Mayer plays a funky style predicated on some quirky stroke production—he has a windmill-sized backswing on his forehand, and alternates a scooped, two-handed slice-backhand and a leaping slap-shot style backhand—and Djokovic robbed him of time by stepping up to the baseline and stretching him out on the forehand side.
You know Djokovic is feeling confident when he serve-and-volleys twice in one game, as he did holding to open the second set before punishing the Mayer forehand to draw an error and break for 2-0. Mayer won the most electric point of the match—tapping a dazzling drop shot to draw Djokovic in, then punching a full-stretch forehand volley into the open court—and Djokovic was hit with a time violation warning as he caught his breath before serving. “What’s the problem?” Djokovic said to chair umpire Damien Dumusois, before getting back to business by hitting a pair of biting wide serves to hold for 3-0.
Djokovic denied another break point in holding for 4-1, then blasted a crisp backhand pass cross-court to break for 5-1. Closure was complicated: Djokovic fought off triple break point, but continued his forward thinking, winning 11 of 16 trips to the net while dancing into the next round.