For Djokovic, it’s no sweat advancing
NEWYORK— Thanks to injuries to two opponents, Novak Djokovic did not exactly need to put in much work to reach the U.S. Open’s fourth round for the 10th consecutive year.
So it made sense that the defending champion and No. 1 seed would spend some extra time practicing in Arthur Ashe Stadium as coach Boris Becker watched on Friday after spending a grand total of 31 minutes of match time on court over the second and third rounds.
“I don’t think I ever had this kind of situation in my career,” Djokovic said.
Yes, Djokovic got another free pass at Flushing Meadows, advancing this time when Mikhail Youzhny stopped because of a strained left hamstring while trailing 4-2 after a little more than a half-hour of play.
In an evening match that lasted about an hour longer, Jack Sock advanced to the fourth round by stunning 2014 U.S. Open champion and No. 7-seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
Youzhny received treatmentfromatrainer early on, getting his left leg wrapped, but briefly tried to continue. After holding serve in the sixth game, closing it with an overhead putaway up at the net, the Russian — a semifinalist in New York in 2006 and 2010 and a former top-10 player now ranked 61st — shook his head and told the chair umpire he couldn’t keep going.
Djokovic did not play Wednesday, when the man he was supposed to face in the second round, Jiri Vesely, withdrew from the tournament a couple of hours before that match because of inflammation in his left forearm.
“There’s plenty of things to work on,” Djokovic said. “That’s the beauty of sport: Every day is different. The challenge is every day you feel different on the court.” In a late match, Rafael Nadal produced a spectacular “tweener” lob with his back to the net on the next-tolast-point of his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov.
Nadal returned to the fourth round at the U.S. Open for the first time since winning the 2013 title.
Novak Djokovic returns a shot against Mikhail Youzhny, who retired after 31 minutes with a strained hamstring.