Nole extended his winning record at the China Open to 26 matches after outclassing Zhang 6-2 6-1 in 54 minutes.
Flawless in his Beijing record, Djokovic is largely flawless in form too. While there were patches of play that would provide the plucky Zhang with confidence, proceedings were almost entirely dictated by the Serb.
He broke in the second game of the first set and despite Zhang pushing at times, gained control with four more breaks of serve.
Not that there wasn’t entertaining tennis. Showcasing his potential with some big serves – Zhang hit three aces and registered the fastest serve of the match at 208 k/ph – there were also some long rallies between the two men, the longest extending to 19 shots.
The point ended with Djokovic hitting a winner at the net – one of the 21 winners overall that would prove so effective.
“He has obviously the game to be in top 100. Today I didn’t give him much opportunity to really play his tennis because I was playing very quick. I didn’t give him any chance to step in and to maybe think that he can control the rally,” said Djokovic, noting that Zhang boasts top 100 potential.
“He’s a strong guy. He has a good serve. But just today he was not able to play maybe as well as we wanted.”
For Zhang, there was undoubtedly an important lesson in how quickly the world No.1 takes control with the slightest opening. Serving at 2-5 in the first set, the 25-year-old followed an unforced error with his only double fault – two points later, Djokovic had the set secured in 27 minutes.
Similar patterns followed in the second set, Zhang again dropping serve in the second and sixth games, allowing Djokovic to close out his 26th win in Beijing with a stunning backhand volley at the net.
While Zhang, a wildcard, will welcome the rankings points that accompany his progression into the second round, Djokovic will look to maintain his perfect China Open record against Australian John Millman or American John Isner.
Djokovic has in fact dropped just three sets in five Beijing appearances – a statistic that the world No.1 believes is partly attributable to the conditions.
“I feel very pleasant playing on the center court. The old center court, which is now the second biggest, the Lotus, the Diamond, I guess as I keep coming back each year with that positive record, obviously gives me more confidence knowing that I played so well in the past on this court,” said the Serb.
“Just keep on going. That’s all. There is no particular reason. There’s (a) few things that play in my favour.”
Undoubtedly it helps to have such strong crowd support – a factor that will only grow if Djokovic claims a 27th consecutive match at this event.（By Vivienne Christie）