Novak Djokovic breezes, Daniil Medvedev falls in W&S Open quarterfinals

NEW YORK -- Before Naomi Osaka announced Wednesday night that she will not play in Thursday's Western & Southern Open semifinal match in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, who was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, it was business as usual on the court for Novak Djokovic.

On Wednesday night, following Osaka's announcement, the USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA said they were pausing tournament play on Thursday "to recognize this moment in time" when "as a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States."

Hours earlier, Djokovic had all parts of his game working, making only a dozen unforced errors despite windy conditions during a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff that was by far his best showing of the week.

Djokovic had no problems with his creaky neck or the swirling winds

So far, no rust at all after the long layoff from competitive tennis.

"Everything was worked on in the last six months, I had plenty of time," Djokovic said. "I worked on every single thing. It's great it's paying off so early after the break."

Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibition matches he organized in Serbia and Croatia in June with no social distancing.

In his match Monday against Ricardas Berankis, Djokovic had his sore neck massaged twice by a trainer during a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory that included seven double faults. The neck has gotten better, and so has his overall game.

"Right now it's not a concern," he said. "It's still not 100 percent but it's close to that. I've been gaining more range in my movement of the neck every single day, so no complaints."

In the semifinals, he'll face Roberto Bautista Agut, who knocked out defending champion Daniil Medvedev earlier in the day.

Medvedev failed to close it out in the second set, and Bautista Agut rallied for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory that eliminated yet another top player from the tuneup tournament for the US Open. Djokovic is the only player left in the tournament with an ATP Masters 1000 title to his credit.

Medvedev led 4-3 in the second before letting it slip away. He converted only five of 20 break points in the match and swatted his racket against the court in frustration at the end.

"Even in the third set I had my chances and didn't take them," Medvedev said.

Bautista Agut reached his third Masters semifinal and his first since 2016. He needed a set to adjust to the breezy, cooler conditions on court.

"It's never easy to come back and play good at first," he said. "I have to be patient, to try to enjoy every single match I play here after six months without competing. Just pleased and happy to be in the semifinals."

Medvedev hoisted the champion's Rookwood Pottery cup last year in Mason, Ohio, where the tournament is held annually. This year's event was moved to the US Open site in Flushing Meadows because of pandemic precautions, creating a two-tournament event without spectators.

Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas also advanced to the semifinals when Reilly Opelka withdrew during the first set of their match Wednesday after getting treatment for an injured right knee. He'll face Milos Raonic, who beat Filip Krajinovic 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5.

On the women's side, before her announcement, fourth-seeded Osaka beat No. 12 Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, reaching the semifinals as the only top-10 player left in the bracket. Osaka was set to face No. 14 Elise Mertens, who beat 83rd-ranked Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-3 in a semifinal match.

Already down one set, Osaka saw her serve broken early in the second, then won six games in a row to gain momentum.

"For the first set and honestly a couple games in the second, I was just really being down on myself and being negative," Osaka said. "If I had to lose a match, I didn't want to lose a match on that note. I just tried to be more positive and pump myself up.

"I just came back from six months [off] and the third match and I was already being negative, which is something I hope I can change."

Victoria Azarenka will play eighth-seeded Johanna Konta in the other women's semifinal. Konta beat Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-3, and Azarenka advanced in straight sets against Ons Jabeur.

Azarenka, who was No. 1 in 2012, acknowledged Wednesday that she had considered retiring at the start of the year. She's currently No. 59 but has reached her first semifinal since April 2019.

"In January, I didn't know if I was going to play at all,'' she said. "So end of January, I decided: You know what? I might try, last time, and see what happens.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.