Novak Djokovic escapes with five-set win at U.S. Open

League: Tennis

Posted on: 02 Sep, 2023 at 06:02 AM

Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Novak Djokovic survived a scare from 32nd-seeded Serbian countryman Laslo Djere, as the second seed erased a two-set deficit for a third-round win late Friday night (and early Saturday morning) in New York.

Djokovic emerged with a 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 victory.

Djere had a break point in the final game but dumped a backhand into the net after a long baseline rally. Djokovic subsequently closed out the match, which ended after 1:30 a.m. local time.

Djokovic said to the fans who remained after his win, "I hope you enjoyed the show. It was definitely not so enjoyable for me, especially in the first two sets. It was one of the toughest matches I've played here in many years. Huge, huge credit to Laslo for playing some of the best tennis I've seen him play.

Djokovic left the court after falling into a two-set hole, and he admitted he gave himself a pep talk in the mirror.

"I was so ... annoyed and agitated with the result and with the game, but I had to kind of force myself to lift myself up, to lift the spirits up. I've done it a few times before in my career (and) it worked. A few times it didn't work, but tonight it did, and I'm grateful."

A three-time U.S. Open champion and a nine-time finalist in the tournament, Djokovic is looking to capture the trophy in New York for the first time since 2018.

Next up for Djokovic will by Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo, who defeated the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

In other Friday action, 14th-seeded Tommy Paul punched his ticket to the fourth round at the U.S. Open for the first time with a 6-1, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

The convincing victory was a welcome one for Paul, who was pushed to the limit on Wednesday before recording his first career comeback from two sets down in a second-round victory over Roman Safiullin of Russia.

Friday, Paul benefited from a 40-27 edge in winners as well as 44 unforced errors from Davidovich Fokina to end the match in two hours and 20 minutes. The 26-year-old finished the match with one of his 15 aces to improve to 3-0 all-time versus the Spaniard.

Afterward, Paul credited inspiration he received from a young fan named Eddie, who watched him play Wednesday and was back cheering him on against Davidovich Fokina.

"I think we got him tickets to our box, but he ended up getting better tickets right on the side of the court," Paul said. "I was definitely hearing him. It was fun.

"He definitely got louder after I lost the third, which was cool. I went and talked to him a little bit after, but it's really cool to have him here. I'm hoping he becomes famous or something."

And moving forward?

Paul said, "I'm not playing a match here without him. He's coming back."

Paul will square off against Ben Shelton in the next round after Shelton defeated Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Paul defeated Shelton in an all-American clash to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open on Jan. 25.

Shelton fired the tournament's fastest serve on Friday, 147 mph, while racking up 26 aces.

Looking ahead to facing Paul, Shelton said, "He's a guy who has every shot in the book. A great athlete. Great mover. Amazing defensive skills, but can also play offense. He's a really savvy tennis player. He uses his brain a lot on court to beat his opponent. I have some ... similar qualities."

Two other seeded U.S. players charged into the fourth round, too. No. 9 Taylor Fritz thrashed Czech qualifier Jakub Mensik 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, and No. 10 Frances Tiafoe got past No. 22 Adrian Mannarino of France 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (6).

Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker also advanced, as did Australia's Rinky Hijikata.

--Field Level Media