SHANGHAI — No longer concerned about titles and honors, Novak Djokovic is instead trying to rediscover the inner joy he used to have while playing tennis.
And after beating Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-3 Tuesday in the second round of the Shanghai Masters — his first win following a month-long injury layoff — the top-ranked Serb said he’s closing in on that feeling again.
“When I get on the court, of course I want to give my best and eventually try to win the match,” the 12-time Grand Slam champion said. “But not as a priority of must-win type of mindset, because that is not working for me anymore.
“I have just a different kind of vision right now.”
It’s been a summer of soul-searching for Djokovic, who admitted to being both emotionally and mentally exhausted after finally succeeding in his quest to win the French Open and complete a career Grand Slam.
He lost in the third round of Wimbledon and afterward reportedly said he was dealing with personal issues. He then went into the Rio de Janeiro Olympics with high expectations of winning gold only to stumble in the first round against Juan Martin del Potro and exit the tournament in tears.
“I really wanted it too much maybe,” Djokovic said.
Then came another frustrating loss to Stan Wawrinka in the U.S. Open final and an elbow injury that sidelined him for a month.
Back on court again in Shanghai, an upbeat Djokovic said he needed the time off to recharge mentally and put his career goals in better perspective.
“The last three months were up and down a little bit with oscillations, but generally I didn’t find that kind of satisfaction on the court,” he said before the start of the tournament. “I do really feel like I’m already getting better because I changed my mindset. … I think I’m a different person than I was maybe three months ago, maybe six months ago.”
Djokovic was rusty in his comeback — double-faulting four times and making 18 unforced errors with only 13 winners — but he had no trouble dispatching an even more erratic Fognini, who racked up 40 unforced errors of his own.
Djokovic is aiming to win his fourth title in Shanghai, a tournament where he has a 25-3 record.
Also Tuesday, del Potro faded down the stretch against 11th-seeded David Goffin, dropping serve in the 11th game of the third set and losing 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
The Argentine, on his own comeback from a series of career-threatening wrist injuries over the past several years, was trying to maintain the momentum that saw him win the Olympic silver medal and reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals last month.
“In the end of the match, I make mistakes with my forehands and in important moments, and I think he took all the chances to win the match,” Del Potro said. “But for me, it has been a great season. (I’m) trying to do a good comeback after many injuries. This is just a match.”
Nick Kyrgios, fresh off winning his third title of the year at the Japan Open on Sunday, defeated Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4.
“I was just feeling very tired today. Didn’t have the greatest sleep last night and obviously got in late the day before,” the 12th-seeded Australian said. “It was just tough.”
Sixth-seeded Gael Monfils also moved into the third round with a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over Kevin Anderson, and ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 7-6 (6).
Two other seeded players fell in the first round, No. 10 David Ferrer and No. 14 Richard Gasquet. Bernard Tomic retired from his match against 15th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut with an abdominal muscle pain while trailing 6-3, 3-0.