Still struggling with jet lag and time zone changes, top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat Mardy Fish in an exhibition match at the inaugural Los Angeles Tennis Challenge in the American’s return to the court after a six-month absence caused by a heart condition.
The event, put together by Fish and retired player Justin Gimelstob, survived a broken net and the lights going out during a doubles match featuring Djokovic and childhood idol Pete Sampras against the top-ranked team of Bob and Mike Bryan. The brothers won.
Djokovic won a pro set in a tiebreaker against Fish two days after the Serb won the Dubai Championships and flew to Los Angeles, arriving in time to attend a Lakers game on Sunday night.
Fish, who’s been off the ATP Tour since September, plans to return to competition at Indian Wells later this week. Djokovic is headed to the desert, too.
“I like where my game is,” said Djokovic, who got the loudest applause from the crowd of 8,500 in the arena that is home to UCLA’s basketball team. The fast hard-court surface was installed over the basketball court.
Djokovic won the tiebreaker 7-2 against the 32nd-ranked Fish, who got to test himself against the world’s best men’s player in a match that didn’t affect rankings or points.
“Tonight was a big test for sure to see where I was in a setting with a lot of people,” Fish said from a massage table as a therapist stretched him out after the match. “It didn’t feel like a US Open match, but it did feel like a lot of people and friends were there. To come through felt pretty good, but I don’t feel 100 percent.”