The day after storm Ida caused havoc in New York and disrupted play at Flushing Meadows, the US Open contestants resumed their campaigns at the final major of the season but to a lower attendance, as the wind-blown furniture was made good and plazas were drained of floodwater. However it didn’t affect results with Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev cruising through.
My serve is kind of the key to my game,” said Zverev. “When it’s working, I’m playing great. When it’s not, I’m losing matches like I did at Wimbledon. Alexander Zverev
Zverev, the fourth and seed last year’s runner-up took only 74 minutes to advance past Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-1 6-0 6-3 as his campaign gained momentum en route to a possible semi-final clash with the top seeded Djokovic.
“It’s great that I’m through in three sets and just over an hour,” Zverev said. “I will need that energy. I’ll need that power I have for further matches. I’m happy I only lost four games.”
His form, having won the Cincinnati Masters two weeks ago and the Olympic title prior to that, is making him a very strong contender as ’the man to beat’ and the man to prevent Djokovic claiming a calendar grand slam of this season’s majors, having beaten the Serb in Tokyo.
“I’m happy that I’m in the third round,” Zverev added. “I think today in general was a good match for me. I think maybe Albert didn’t play his best. But I’m happy. I’m happy with how the match went.
“I had two very different matches in my first round and second round, with Sam (Querrey) being one of the biggest servers on tour and Albert being one of the best baseliners on tour. Happy I won both in straight sets and looking forward to what’s ahead.”
And as he rightly pointed out it was his serve which did the damage, winning 81% of his first serves and losing just three points.
“My serve is kind of the key to my game,” said Zverev. “When it’s working, I’m playing great. When it’s not, I’m losing matches like I did at Wimbledon.
“So I think it’s no secret that my serve is probably the most important shot in my game, and I’m happy with how it’s working. I hope I continue to get better throughout the next few matches and everything else. As I said, the matches are not going to get easier, and I will need that to be my weapon.”
Zverev has now won his last 13 matches and 8 of his last 9 at the US Open.
His next challenge will be provided by American Jack Sock who outlasted Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 7-6(3) 6-7(2) 6-4 4-6 6-3.
Meantime Djokovic was the main feature in the evening schedule on Arthur Ashe Stadium and was satisfied with his own performance as he swept past Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 6-2 6-3 6-2 to advance into the third round.
“Great performance,” Djokovic commented. “Better definitely than the first-round match. Obviously I’m very pleased with the way I came out on the court. I served very well. I found the rhythm on the serve. It was important I came up with the goods.
“I made him play. I saw him first time playing in his first-round match a couple days ago with Struff; saw he was serving really well. So I knew that the keys of the match, one of the biggest keys, is my return, trying to make him play, trying to make him move. He’s not the greatest mover on the court. I tried to give him always a different look.
“All in all very good, very good. I’m very pleased with the level of my tennis. All is going in the right direction.”
Djokovic’s confidence is understandable as he records his 23rd win to zero losses at this season’s majors and is just five matches away from completing a grand slam to match the only other male player to have achieved that, namely Rod Laver, 52 years ago. But it is proving a mental challenge.
“Probably it’s more mental and emotional, really,” Djokovic admitted. “I don’t mind being on the court a long time. I feel I have more chances in a best-of-five.
“It’s more about handling everything that’s happening off the court, all the expectations.”
A fourth US Open crown would bring Djokovic his 21st career Grand Slam title, giving him the men’s all-time record, one more than the mark he now shares with his rivals Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, both absent with injuries.
Up next for the Serb is Japan’s favourite Kei Nishikori, the 7-6(3) 6-3 6-7(5) 2-6 6-3 winner over Mackenzie McDonald who had upset Nishikori in the Washington D.C. warm-up tournament. Nishikori overcame an early break in the fifth to win a 27th career 5-set match but still has to score a win over Djokovic who has beaten him the last 16 times, winning only twice in 19 meetings.
“I think his best thing is controlling the ball,” Nishikori said of facing Djokovic. “He can hit anywhere from both sides. He’s been serving well. Best return on the tour. Maybe compared to other guys, less unforced errors. I mean, he has everything.
“Even though I had a bad record (against him), I always try to be positive,” Nishikori said. “I’m sure it’s going to be tough one, but I do my best.”
In an all-American battle, the 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby toughed out Taylor Fritz 6-7(7) 7-6(10) 7-5 6-2 in just over four hours to reach his first Grand Slam third round. He’ll now face Australian Open semi-finalist from Russia, Aslan Karatsev who came from two sets down to deny Australian Jordan Thompson. 3-6 3-6 7-5 7-6(9) 6-1.
Former semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini of Italy, the dark horse in the mix, dropped a set but won in four over Frenchman Corentin Moutet while Moutet’s countryman Gael Monfils advanced over Steve Johnson in four but the 10th seed, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz fell to another Italian, Andreas Seppi 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-6(6).
Also through to round three are the giant American Reilly Opelka who didn’t drop serve in his 7-6(1) 7-5 6-4 win over Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti, and 7th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada who shook off 7 first set double faults to beat Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 7-6(7) 6-3 6-0.
An interesting postscript – German Oscar Otte, ranked 144th, became the fifth men’s qualifier to reach the third round by defeating 92nd-ranked American Denis Kudla 6-4 6-4 6-2 which is the highest number to go so deep at a grand slam, since six made round three at the 2011 French Open. The last time that many progressed in New York was back in 1984.