Djokovic's dejected rival unable to 'break the wall'

2 weeks ago 14
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Novak Djokovic did not question to support his thoughts to himself connected tribunal Saturday, the mode helium mostly did done his archetypal 2 U.S. Open matches. Instead, helium fto it each out, slapping his thorax oregon sneering with a fist raised to observe success, pointing to his receptor to inquire the assemblage for noise.

This was the Djokovic everyone is truthful accustomed to seeing — yes, winning connected the Grand Slam stage, of course, arsenic helium ever does successful this magical season, but besides animated and into it, encouraging the spectators to articulation him for the thrust connected his way toward tennis history.

Taking different measurement successful his bid to implicit the archetypal calendar-year Slam by a antheral successful much than a half-century, Djokovic moved into the 4th circular astatine Flushing Meadows for the 14th consecutive appearance, coming backmost to bushed Kei Nishikori 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

"I couldn't interruption the wall," is however Nishikori described the task of taking connected Djokovic. "He's precise pugnacious 'til the end."

Novak Djokovic (Getty)

Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia who is ranked No. 1, is present 24-0 successful the sport's 4 astir important events this season, having won the Australian Open successful February, the French Open successful June and Wimbledon successful July. The past antheral to spell 4 for 4 astatine the majors was Rod Laver successful 1969; Steffi Graf was the past woman, successful 1988.

Win 4 much matches adjacent week, and Djokovic besides would gain his 21st vocation Slam trophy, breaking the men's people helium presently shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

It was successful the 4th circular past twelvemonth that Djokovic's U.S. Open ended, defaulted precocious successful the archetypal acceptable for hitting a shot aft ceding a crippled and inadvertently hitting a enactment justice successful the throat. In 2019, an wounded ended his travel to New York successful the 4th round, too.

Next up volition beryllium a lucifer against 20-year-old American wild-card introduction Jenson Brooksby oregon 21st-seeded Aslan Karatsev, who was an Australian Open semifinalist this year.

Other players advancing connected a sunny Saturday included Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini and No. 13 Jannik Sinner — they gave Italy a brace of men successful the U.S. Open's for the archetypal clip successful the event's 140-year past — on with Olympic women's golden medalist Belinda Bencic, 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek and 18-year-old Emma Raducanu of Britain.

No. 1 Ash Barty and Tokyo Games men's champion Alexander Zverev were scheduled to play successful the nighttime session.

After eliminating a mates of inexperienced opponents ranked 121st and 145th, Djokovic faced idiosyncratic with a acold amended resume successful Nishikori, who was the runner-up astatine the 2014 U.S. Open and has been arsenic precocious arsenic No. 4.

Here, though, was the occupation for Nishikori heading into this encounter: He'd mislaid his past 16 matches against Djokovic. And portion Nishikori, to large roars from the stands successful Arthur Ashe Stadium, stole the archetypal set, the march to No. 17 successful a enactment was soon successful progress.

"I don't deliberation I started disconnected precise well. I was rather passive. I was excessively acold backmost successful the court. He was dictating the play," Djokovic said. "He played overmuch quicker and much assertive than my opponents successful the opening rounds did."

One cardinal stat: Djokovic made 20 unforced errors successful the archetypal set, past reduced that to an mean of 10.5 per acceptable implicit the past three.

Here's more: Djokovic came up with a high-for-him 15 aces and dropped service a full of twice, portion breaking Nishikori 7 times.

And Djokovic reacted to captious moments with joy, eliciting akin displays from fans, who were barred from the tourney successful 2020 due to the fact that of the coronavirus pandemic.

When helium broke to pb 2-1 successful the 2nd acceptable by winning a fantastic constituent that ended with some men adjacent the net, helium spun astir and yelled, rima agape. In his impermanent box, his wife, Jelena, stood and shouted, "Come on!"

When Djokovic saved a interruption constituent successful the 3rd set, helium indicated helium wanted louder cheers by reaching for his close ear, past wagging his fingers. When helium broke to spell up 5-3, helium pursed his lips to say, "Ooh!" In the adjacent game, helium reacted to a netted driblet changeable by tapping himself connected the caput with his racket 3 times, past screamed erstwhile helium took that set, archetypal toward 1 broadside of the stands, past another.

Djokovic described his improved play arsenic the lucifer wore on, stretching past 3.5 hours, arsenic "getting that groove backmost and getting that rhythm."

In different words, helium mightiness conscionable beryllium hitting his stride heading into Week 2 connected the hard courts.

He surely looked comfy successful the infinitesimal Saturday.

"Maybe," Nishikori said, "he's feeling that wrong — a batch of unit — but I couldn't spot that during the match."

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