Cincinnati: Novak Djokovic pulled his championship tennis back together after last week's early exit, beating Gilles Simon 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the third round of the ATP-WTA Cincinnati Masters here on Tuesday.
The world number one was ambushed at the same stage in Toronto a week ago by eventual champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
But Djokovic made sure he did not commit the same error twice as he began a bid to win the only Masters 1000 title missing from his resume. But he was tested by his French opponent, who took Tuesday's contest into a final set.
"He's not going to give you too many unforced errors and free points, so I knew that," Djokovic said. "But I managed to get a win in the end, and that's what matters."
Djokovic went down a service break in the opening set but got it back and added another to take the early lead. In the second set, he went up a break for 2-1 but could not stay the course. A break for 4-3 in the third kept him on the road to recovery.
He ended on his second match point after more than two hours.
Four-time Cincinnati finalist Djokovic improved his record over France's Simon to 8-1. He is playing the pre-US Open Masters tournament for the tenth time.
In the only other second-round match played, Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka was broken while serving for victory but pulled out a win over German Benjamin Becker 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
Toronto winner Tsonga crashed back down to earth in his opening match, losing 6-1, 6-4 to Russian Mikhail Youzhny.
The 29-year-old 12th seed found himself back on court 48 hours after beating Roger Federer to win the title in Toronto, the second at the Masters 1000 level of his career.
Failed to find inspiration
But he failed to find the inspiration he had in Toronto — where he also beat Djokovic and Andy Murray — with canny veteran Youzhny taking full advantage of the physical state of last week's champion.
"It's never easy, you have to get used to the conditions really quick," said Tsonga.
"I was not able to hit yesterday because the rainstorm.
"But that's not the main thing. I just give everything on court, but I didn't have enough today to compete at the good level.
"I gave everything last week. Before the match I believed I was able to play at a good level, but on the court I realised it's gonna be impossible. And it was.
"I gave my best and it was tough."
Latvian Ernests Gulbis needed a pair of tiebreakers to advance over Ivan Dodig 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4).
Croatian 14th seed Marin Cilic advanced into the second round over Toronto semifinalist Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4 while British qualifier James Ward surprised Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
Canadian Vasek Pospisil rallied to put out Czech Radek Stepanek 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) as wild card Robby Ginepri beat Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.
In women's play, fifth seed Maria Sharapova overcame American Madison Keys 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, with the Russian changing clothes at the end of the second set and starting the third refreshed.
"I guess maybe that's just what dry clothes does to you — they get you a bit calmer. It was obviously time to change. It's quite humid here."
Czech 16th seed Lucie Safarova knocked out Montreal finalist Venus Williams, 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-4.