Djokovic struggles, Ferrer retires
Novak Djokovic made a rusty return to action at the China Open on Tuesday, as second seed David Ferrer retired with illness and women's world No 1 Victoria Azarenka stormed into the third round.
The Serbian world No 2, playing his first match since losing last month's US Open final to Andy Murray, beat German qualifier Michael Berrer 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2 in the men's first round, but the performance was far from impressive.
Djokovic, 25, took the first set with ease but lost the second on a tie-break after hitting several unforced errors against the 123rd-ranked left-hander, before improving his groundstrokes for the decider.
"I had a tough time to really return his serve in the second (set), because he went for precision more than the speed of his first serves," Djokovic said.
"He had a very high percentage of first serves in and he put a lot of pressure on my serves. I tried to stay closer to the line in the third, and it worked."
The No 1 seed has won China's Open on the two occasions he has entered, in 2009 and 2010, but missed last year because of injury.
Elsewhere, Spain's Ferrer retired due to illness during the first set of his match against Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun, and third seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France battled to a three-set victory over Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin.
The world No 7 lost the first set but came back to win 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/3).
Tsonga's countryman Julien Benneteau, who lost in the final of the Malaysian Open just two days ago, was also forced to retire two games into the second set, handing Italy's Andreas Seppi an easy route to the second round.