Albuquerque Journal

For Djokovic, it’s 23 down, five to go

Distractio­ns don’t prevent easy victory

- BY HOWARD FENDRICH

NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic missed an overhead along the way to getting broken for the only time Thursday night and stared at a man in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands who made noise during the point.

After breaking right back in the next game of his secondroun­d victory at the U.S. Open, Djokovic glared in that direction again, as if to say, “How you like

me now?” Miffed as the distractio­ns persisted, he later spoke to the chair umpire about what’s considered a no-no in tennis.

That, then, is pretty much what provided some intrigue and interest in this one, because the ultimate outcome — a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory for Djokovic over Tallon Griekspoor — seemed fairly obvious after about 15 minutes. Or maybe even before the No. 1-ranked Djokovic and his 121stranke­d opponent stepped on court on a cool, breezy evening.

“That guy, for some reason, was calling, raising the sound and kind of screaming just before I would hit my smash, which was a big point. Before that, he would do it a few times. After that, again,” Djokovic said of the fan. “That wasn’t nice. That’s all. I don’t mind the noise. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important for the entertainm­ent, for the crowds, the music. I get it. But if someone does it over and over again … he knows why he’s doing it. The guy that I pointed out, he knew exactly what he was doing, and that’s all.”

If that bothered Djokovic, his shot-making and serving boosted his mood as he took another step toward completing the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969 and claiming a 21st major championsh­ip to eclipse the mark he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“All in all very good, very good. I’m very pleased with the level of my tennis,” Djokovic said.

He considered this a better performanc­e than in his win Tuesday, when he dropped a set and was taken aback by hearing what he thought were boos but actually were last-name chants of “Ruuuuune!” for his 18-year-old foe, Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune.

Here’s what matters the most: Djokovic is 2-0 at Flushing Meadows this week and 23-0 in Grand Slam tournament­s this year, with five more wins standing between him and history.

“I am motivated as ever to do well,” said Djokovic, a 34-yearold from Serbia who will face 2014 U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori next. “I am trying to be the best I can be every single day and let’s see what happens.”

Djokovic has won their past 16 matchups, including at the Tokyo Olympics in July, although Nishikori’s last head-to-head victory came in New York seven years ago.

This was only the fourth Slam match for Griekspoor, a 25-yearold Dutchman who tends to appear on the lower-level ATP Challenger Tour. And he never really stood much of a chance against Djokovic, who broke to lead 3-1 and was on his way.

“There’s a reason he’s the best of all-time, probably. Just, every ball comes back. You hit a great serve, the ball’s back on your feet,” Griekspoor said.

About the only problems No. 1 Ash Barty and other top women encountere­d earlier Thursday came in the delays trying to get to Flushing Meadows in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s remnants blowing through the Northeast a night earlier.

Barty, a two-time major champion including at Wimbledon in July, three-time Grand Slam champ Angelique Kerber, Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, double Wimbledon title winner Petra Kvitova and other seeded women including No. 14 Anastasia Pavlyuchen­kova, No. 17 Maria Sakkari, No. 23 Jessica Pegula and No. 28 Anett Kontaveit all won in two sets during the afternoon to reach the third round.

At night, 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu improved her tournament record to 9-0 by defeating Lauren Davis 6-4, 6-4.

Among the men’s winners were Summer Games gold medalist and 2020 U.S. Open runner-up Alexander Zverev, 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, No. 17 Gael Monfils and No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the U.S. But No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, a Wimbledon semifinali­st, lost to Andreas Seppi of Italy, and No. 31 Alexander Bublik was beaten by American wild-card recipient Jack Sock 7-6 (3), 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

 ?? FRANK FRANKLIN II/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Novak Djokovic returns a shot to Tallon Griekspoor on Thursday at the U.S. Open. The 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory advances Djokovic closer to a calendar year Grand Slam and the record for men’s major championsh­ips.
FRANK FRANKLIN II/ASSOCIATED PRESS Novak Djokovic returns a shot to Tallon Griekspoor on Thursday at the U.S. Open. The 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory advances Djokovic closer to a calendar year Grand Slam and the record for men’s major championsh­ips.

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