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Djokovic is given a fright

For the second consecutive match at this year’s US Open, the top seeded Novak Djokovic, going for a calendar Grand Slam, dropped a set which in itself is perhaps not surprising, but on this occasion, it was to a player who he was expected to roll past with ease.

He’s a young, talented player that is very crafty,. He’s got the really all-around game. He was pumped. He had the crowd behind him, of course. He played a perfect first set. Everything he intended to do he executed it perfectly Novak Djokovic

Jenson Brooksby, the 20-year-old-wildcard more than tested the Serb favourite as he irritated Djokovic over the first hour of the three-hour contest with his speed about the court and crafty play causing the world number one to make 11 unforced errors as he struggled to contain the upstart, who then ran out of steam to eventually go down 1-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.

“I think great quality match. He started off better,” said Djokovic, explaining away his early error prone game. “I’ve never played him. I didn’t see him play too many times. Maybe few matches in the last few months. Haven’t followed his career prior to that, so I didn’t know much about him.

“He’s a young, talented player that is very crafty,” Djokovic added. “He’s got the really all-around game. He was pumped. He had the crowd behind him, of course. He played a perfect first set. Everything he intended to do he executed it perfectly.

“On my end, I was just trying to find a rhythm, trying to read his game, trying to understand where I can find holes in his game and start to attack and shift the momentum to my side.

“That happened already at the beginning of the second set. I broke him early. He broke back. But I re-broke his serve right away. We had some very, very long rallies, long games. It took a toll physically I think on both of us at that point. But I managed to find the right serves. I served efficiently when I needed to, opening up the court.”

The 20-time grand slam champion broke early in the second set, but Brooksby fought back winning an epic 19-minute 24-point fifth game for 2-3 only for Djokovic to break back immediately which proved to be the moment the fourth round match switched his way.

But there is no doubt the Brooksby impressed the Serbian master.

“He’s young. He’s 20. He’s got plenty of time. He showed also I think mental maturity on the court. Stepped in, and considering the circumstances, his first Arthur Ashe Stadium match, against me, night session, I think he managed himself very well. He was motivated and did his best. I have to congratulate him and say that I was impressed with his game but also with his behaviour.”

Brooksby’s run should give added impetus to his career for his plan against the title favourite during the early stages of the match, certainly had Djokovic on his heels.

“I can’t really say too much,” Brooksby said. “But I did do it from the start, and I could see it working. I really did have a lot of confidence in myself out there that I can beat him, I can beat anybody.

“I started out strong today. I believe from the start, just like any other match, I came out strong, came out with my right strategy. It’s tough how it faded later in the second set, into the rest of the match (but) also credit to Novak for stepping it up, too.”


Matteo Berrettini sets up a quarter-final clash with Novak Djokovic in a repeat of the Wimbledon final

Al Bello/Getty Images

Djokovic’s quarter-final opponent is the Italian sixth seed, Matteo Berrettini, a player he now knows well, in what is a re-match of their Wimbledon final.

“Hammer of tennis,” Djokovic said of the Italian. “Next to (Juan Martin) del Potro, probably the hardest hitter of serve and forehand. He’s got the lethal-serve-plus-one game. He’s already established as a top player. Without a doubt, he played a couple of I think semi-finals here couple years ago, finals in Wimbledon. (And) that was a tough four-setter.

“Look, if he serves well, which is his biggest weapon, he’s tough. He’s tough on any surface to play against. I’ve had some really close matches with him in French Open and Wimbledon recently.”

Berrettini dropped the second set against Oscar Otte, a qualifier, and then benefited from the German’s fourth-set, awkward stumble following an overhead smash resulting in him injuring is wrist injury, to then secure a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2 win.

And that wasn’t the only misfortune to strike the German who had earlier in the match, ended up entwined in the net!


Oscar Otte receives attention to his wrist

At the conclusion of the match, Berrettini won the crowd over with a simple gesture ofredirecting their applause to Otte for not retiring and battling through to the end despite being in obvious pain.

Meanwhile Alexander Zverev won his 15th consecutive match but was made to work hard by Jannik Sinner, saving four set points in the third to get past the Italian 6-4 6-4 7-6(7).

“I think it was a pretty high-level match, to be honest,” Zverev said. “I think the winner and unforced error ratio was not like the other matches, not as good as the other matches, but it was also very difficult because both of us are playing extremely fast. All in all, I played one bad game in the third set and that almost cost me the set, and that shows how high I think both players were playing.”

Next up for the German fourth seed to slip into the semi-finals and an expected blockbuster meeting with Novak Djokovic, is the South African Lloyd Harris who stunned Reilly Opelka 6-7(6) 6-4 6-1 6-3, even out-acing him 36 to 24. Harris, who upset Rafael Nadal in Washington a few weeks back, broke the big American six times to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.


Lloyd Harris (R) meets Reilly Opelka at the net after defeating the giant American to make the quarter-finals.

Al Bello/Getty Images

“Obviously I’m super happy to get through that first fourth round for me today,” said Harris. “It was a really tough match. Reilly is always going to come with a lot of big serves, that’s for sure.

“I think I handled it well after going down that first set. I held my composure. I served really well throughout the match. All in all, I’m just very, very pleased and very relieved after that performance.”

“I don’t think I served my best,” Opelka admitted. “I actually served poorly, to be honest. He served great. He was the better server. Then with me not serving a high percentage of first serves, he’s going to put a lot of balls in play, and that just changes the whole dynamic of the match when I’m not serving great.

“That’s kind of what makes me so difficult, and it really was off. Usually I can manage it better and make some adjustments throughout the match, which I was trying, but a little out of character for me to serve that poorly throughout the whole match, but he served great.”



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