New York | Tsitsipas and Ruud crash out as Djokovic cruises through.

Novak Djokovic sailed through his second-round match on Wednesday but two of his rivals for this year’s US Open crown, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud fell by the wayside as the bottom half of the men’s draw at the fourth and final major of the season, was completed.

I am a bit speechless -- but it is a great day. Dominic Stricker

Both are shocks at this stage of the championships, with Ruud’s, last year’s beaten finalist, perhaps the more surprising of the two as Tsitsipas has struggled over the years has yet to get past the third round at Flushing Meadows.

The Greek seventh seed, served for the match against the 21-year-old Swiss qualifier, Dominic Stricker, world ranked 128, who recorded the best win of his young career to reach the third round 7-5 6-7(2) 6-7(5) 7-6-6) 6-3 in just over four hours.

“I came out today pretty well. I felt good from the first set on. It was a tough battle but I am just super happy right now,” a delighted and somewhat dumb-struck Stricker said following his victory which included 79 winners.

“I am going to enjoy the rest of the day and then I will recover for the next round,” he continued.

“I was down 3-5 and then I came back in the fourth set. I don’t know how, but I did it somehow and then I kept playing very high-level tennis. I am a bit speechless — but it is a great day.”

Zhizhen Zhang hopes to become the first male player from China to make the fourth round at a Grand Slam

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Later in the day Zhang Zhizhen made history as the first Chinese man to defeat a top-five player, dumping out the 2022 runner-up Ruud and avenge the defeat the Norwegian inflicted on him at the French Open.

The 67th-ranked Zhang, aged 26, advanced into round three with a 6-4 5-7 6-2 0-6 6-2 victory and is aiming to become the first Chinese male player to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam in the Open Era. To reach that milestone Zhang has to clear Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata in the next round.

“Last year at the US Open, I can say it was a bad memory. But this year is a little bit different,” said Zhang on being reminded that he had failed to convert seven match points in the opening round of 2022!.

Fortune seems to be favouring Novak Djokovic

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The removal of Tsitsipas and Ruud, the fifth seed, means that Djokovic’s half of the draw has opened up more for the Serb who already had what was considered the better half to his main rival at the top, Carlos Alcaraz,

On Wednesday he cruised past Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-4 6-1 6-1 as he continues his march to recapture the US Open title for a fourth time and extend his record of 23 Grand Slam titles.

“He started off solid,” Djokovic said later. “We had some rallies. We kind of had to reach out for the towel basically after each one of those longer rallies, so it took a bit more time and effort. But, you know, one break was enough. Then after that, the second set I played really good. Beginning of the third, couple of close games, but last four games of the third I ended up really playing really well. I’m pleased with the way I’m feeling, playing on the court.

“Can always be better, but first two rounds didn’t spend too much time on the court and played very solid and hopefully I can keep building.

“At 36 years of age, after 20 years of coming to New York, I still have the hunger to play my best tennis on this (Arthur Ashe) court,” Djokovic, a three-time US Open champion, added.

Djokovic will now face his countryman Laslo Djere (32) on Friday who is unlikely to derail him in what will be the second meeting between the pair having lost the first.

Unfortunately for former champion Dominic Thiem, he was forced to retire having been struggling these past few days with stomach pains, handing American Ben Shelton a place in the third round with the score standing at 7-6(1) 1-0.

Americans in fact had a mixed day as Tommy Paul defeated Wimbledon quarterfinalist Roman Safiullin 3-6 2-6 6-2 6-4 6-3 to recover for the first time in his career, from a two-sets-to-love deficit.

Joining him are Taylor Fritz (9) and Frances Tiafoe (10) who cruised through in the night session in straights, Fritz taking out Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru 6-1 6-2 6-2 while Tiafoe eased past Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 6-3 6-1 6-4.

“I thought I played really solid tonight. I thought I hit the ball really well from both sides,” Tiafoe said on court. “I could have served a bit better tonight, but other than that, I didn’t have so many unforced errors. I put a lot of pressure on him. I hit my forehand great tonight and moved really well tonight. A win is a win and we are on to the next one.”

Also though is Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina who beat Argentina’s Juan Manuel Cerundolo 6-1 6-4 6-3 as is France’s Benjamin Bonzi who upset the 28th seeded Christopher Eubanks of the US 7-6(6) 2-6 6-2 7-6(7), another player suffering from some stomach ailment.

Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (22) ousted Fabian Marozsan of Hungary 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-1 to take on Tiafoe next. Croatia’s Borna Gojo dismissed America’s Mackenzie McDonald 6-3 6-4 6-4 while an Australian wildcard, Rinky Hijikata had a comfortable win over Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 6-1 6-2 6-1.

In other action Aslan Karatsev of Russia dismissed Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain 6-2 4-6 6-3 7-6(4) while Jakub Mensik, a 17-year-old from the Czech Republic continue to impress by recording a 3-6 6-2 7-6(1) 6-3 victory over Frenchman Titouan Droguet, a fellow qualifier and become the youngest male to reach the third round at the Big Apple since 1990.

And another Czech, Jiri Vesely stunned Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo (20), 7-6(5) 6-2 3-6 2-6,7-6(10-6).

Jakub Mensik a new Czech star

(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)



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