Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round of the US Open on Friday, putting him five matches away from completing the first men’s singles calendar-year Grand Slam in 52 years.
At Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 34-year-old Serbian defeated 121st-ranked Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to set up a third-round match with 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Djokovic stated, “I’m as driven as ever to perform well.” “I’m not the only one who wants to go all the way in the tournament and win the trophy.” Let’s see what happens if I attempt to be my best every day.”
Djokovic, who is seeking the first men’s calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969, said the mental struggle is more difficult at this level than the physical one.
“It’s probably more cerebral and emotional,” Djokovic explained. “I don’t mind spending a lot of time on the court.” In a best-of-five, I believe I have a better chance.
“It’s more about managing everything that happens off the court, all the expectations,” says the player.
With a fourth US Open title, Djokovic would have 21 Grand Slam titles in his career, one more than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are both out due to injury.
Djokovic claimed he was avoiding the nightlife in New York.
“Hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll party and rejoice,” Djokovic added.
When Djokovic fired a backhand long in the seventh game of the second set, Griekspoor broke to get within 4-3, but the number one broke again and held, capturing the set on his 10th ace on his way to a 99-minute triumph.
Djokovic stated, “I came out on the court with the right intensity, the correct focus.”
By outlasting American Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 2-6, 6-3, Nishikori put himself in Djokovic’s way to history, avenging a defeat in the Washington semifinals last month.
Nishikori, who last defeated Djokovic in the 2014 US Open quarterfinals, has a 17-2 lifetime record versus the Serbian great. Djokovic has won 16 consecutive matches since then, most recently in the Tokyo Olympic quarterfinals.
“I always try to stay positive, even though I have a terrible record,” Nishikori remarked. “I’m sure it’ll be difficult, but I’ll try my best.”
AFTER THE STORM, THE CROWDS HAVE DIMINISHED.
As New York battled to recover from a devastating storm and flash flooding, attendance was low. Hurricane Ida’s remnants slammed on Wednesday night, killing at least 41 people and forcing the city into a rare state of emergency, flooding subways and turning roadways into rivers.
The high water that inundated the US Open plazas had receded, and the wind-strewn furniture had been restored in time for Thursday. Thursday morning practice was held at a flooded Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“There were a few branches down, but nothing that would have impacted the event or the fans,” said Danny Zausner, chief operations officer of the National Tennis Center.
With abandoned vehicles littering the streets outside the National Tennis Center and numerous highways closed, fewer people than usual watched Tokyo Olympic winner Alexander Zverev and top-ranked Ashleigh Barty advance to the third round.
Clara Tauson, a Danish adolescent, is sent by Australian Barty. 6-1, 7-5, and German fourth seed Zverev rips Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, the 33rd ranked left-hander in the world, 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.
“Last night was very terrible,” Barty remarked. “It was a ferocious storm.” It certainly wreaked devastation.”
Barty, the defending Wimbledon winner, will face American Shelby Rogers in the quarter-finals of the US Open, where she is chasing her third Grand Slam championship.
Zverev, the runner-up at the US Open last year and the winner in Cincinnati two weeks ago, required only 74 minutes to progress.
“It’s fantastic that I’m done in just over an hour and three sets,” Zverev remarked. “I’m going to need that energy.” For future bouts, I’ll need all of my strength. I’m glad I only dropped four games.”
By overcoming 92nd-ranked American Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, German Oscar Otte, rated 144th, became the sixth men’s qualifier to reach the third round.
There haven’t been as many qualifiers at any Slam since six in 2011 at the French Open and five in 1984 at the US Open.
RAMOS-VINOLAS ARE DEMOLISHED BY ZVEREV
On Thursday, Alexander Zverev blasted Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-1 6-0 6-3 in a quick 74-minute match, saving his energy as he advanced to the third round of the US Open.
After Zverev grabbed a break to start the first set and never let up the momentum, more than half of the German’s serves went unreturned in the lopsided match.
On Arthur Ashe Stadium, where he came within two points of winning a year ago before losing the final in devastating manner to Austrian Dominic Thiem, the world No. 4 hit 11 aces, including three in a row to finish out the third set.
“It was excruciating, and I remember it,” the freshly minted Olympic champion remarked. “I use it as inspiration because now that I’m back, I have a chance to perform better.”
The 24-year-old is one of a group of younger players seeking to derail world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s pursuit for a calendar-year Grand Slam after winning Masters championships in Madrid and Cincinnati this year.
“It’s fantastic that I’m done in three sets,” Zverev remarked. “I’m going to need that energy, and I’m going to need the power.”