As world number one Novak Djokovic comfortably got his US Open campaign under way on the second day at Flushing Meadows, the Olympic champion Alexander Zverev laid down the gauntlet declaring he was going to stop the top seeded Serbian and title favourite, from achieving his goal of becoming the only the second male player to win a calendar Grand Slam, namely all four majors in the same season.
Novak is chasing history," the fourth seeded Zverev said. "But the young guys are going to try and get in the way of that. I'm going to try to give him a challenge as well. I was also the only person to beat him at a very big event this year. Everything else he has won. He's the favourite. No question about that Alexander Zverev
The two are destined to meet in the semi-final which would be a repeat of their clash at the Tokyo Olympics which saw the German halt Djokovic’s aspirations of a ‘Golden Slam’ and points out, he is the only player to have beaten Djokovic in a substantial competition.
“Novak is chasing history,” the fourth seeded Zverev said. “But the young guys are going to try and get in the way of that. I’m going to try to give him a challenge as well.
“I was also the only person to beat him at a very big event this year. Everything else he has won. He’s the favourite. No question about that.
“But I hope I can keep the level up and maybe even play better because to beat Novak here is going to be an extremely difficult task.”
In his opening match Zverev more than contained the big-serving Sam Querry as he dispatched the American 6-4 7-5 6-2 on Arthur Ashe Stadium to stretch his current run of consecutive wins to 12 which included picking up the Cincinnati Masters title two weeks ago, delivering 18 aces and 40 winners in the 100-minute contest while never facing a break point himself.
“I hope in two weeks’ time I’ll be on an 18-match winning streak,” added Zverev, who, if successful, would then be raising his first trophy at a major having missed out last year when he lost the final to Dominic Thiem who is not defending his title having been side-lined by an injury.
The 24-year-old will next face Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas.
Later, in the evening schedule, the 34-year-old Djokovic eased into the championships with a 6-1 6-7(5) 6-2 6-1 victory over 18-year-old Danish qualifier Holger Rune and explained the surprising loss of a set to not being at his best.
“It wasn’t the best of my performances,” Djokovic admitted after the two-hour 15-minute match. “At the same time, he played well in the second set when it mattered, and I didn’t serve well in that second set.”
Rune, ranked 145th, also began cramping in the third set and struggled to finish.
“From the third or fourth game in the third set, he couldn’t move much,” Djokovic said. “You could see he struggled a lot. I feel for him.”
Djokovic won the first set in 26-minutes without facing a break point, fell behind 3-0 to start the second before battling into the tie-breaker, where Rune grabbed leads of 4-0 and 6-3. After two Djokovic service winners, he sent a backhand service return long to drop the set.
In the third Djokovic broke to lead 3-1 as Rune began receiving treatments between games, grimacing as he struggled to finish the match.
The Serbian who is chasing his 21st grand slam title to pull ahead of his two rivals on 20, faces next the 121st ranked Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, another player he doesn’t know that well, but that doesn’t concern him that much, declaring: “I know this court well. Hopefully that’s going to help.”
In other action the 24-year-old French-born US qualifier Maxime Cressy fired 44 aces and saved four match points to post the upset of the day by eliminating the Spanish ninth seed Pablo Carreno Busta in a five-set thriller 5-7 4-6 6-1 6-4 7-6(7).
“The fifth set he would not give me anything,” Cressy said. “I just kept telling myself to focus on holding my serve efficiently.”
A frustrated Carreno Busta smashed his racket on the court following the conclusion of the three-hours and 35-minutes contest on a Spanish error.
“One point at a time. I just tell myself the same thing at that point in the match and today it came out my way,” Cressy, the world number 151, said. “I’m really happy things are starting to pay off.”
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, beat Italy’s 113th-ranked Salvatore Caruso 6-1 6-1 5-7 6-3.
Next up for the 56th-ranked Asian star is 61st-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald – who ousted Belgian 27th seed David Goffin 6-2 7-5 6-3 – with Djokovic looming as a possible third-round opponent.
“I had a great start,” Nishikori said. “He really pushed me back and he was playing better. Good to fight through something like this.”
Looking ahead to his next match, Nishikori was determined to avenge his defeat by the American at the semi-final stage of the Washington tournament four weeks ago.
Meanwhile Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, a US Open semi-finalist two years ago, defeated France’s Jeremy Chardy 7-6(5) 7-6(7) 6-3 and was joined in round two by hfellow Italians Jannik Sinner and Andreas Seppi, the latter saving five match points in a 15-13 fifth set tie breaker over Marton Fucsovics. Out though are Fabio Fognini and Marco Cecchinato.