Djokovic Maintains Federer Collision Course At US Open

Two-time champion will next face Gasquet or Djere

The biggest question when the US Open draw came out was where Wimbledon and Cincinnati champion Novak Djokovic, the sixth seed, would land. So there was inevitable intrigue when the Serbian fell in five-time winner and second seed Roger Federer’s quarter.

That interest only continued to build Thursday, as they remained on a collision course to meet in the last eight. Just hours after Federer triumphed, Djokovic battled past game American Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2 under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach the third round.

Djokovic has never lost before the third round of the US Open, and the Serbian has advanced to the semi-finals or better in his past 10 appearances. He did not play at Flushing Meadows in 2017 due to a right elbow injury that kept him out after Wimbledon through the end of the season.

The 31-year-old has now advanced to at least the third round in 39 of his past 40 Grand Slams, with the lone exception coming at last year’s Australian Open. Djokovic is now 64-10 at the US Open, where he will next play No. 26 seed Richard Gasquet, who beat Laslo Djere 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3. The Serbian has won 12 of their 13 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

"It's a work in progress still. We are working daily on trying to perfect the game and put it together. Obviously last couple months have been really, really good in terms of results," Djokovic said. "That's what's exciting about this sport and about my game in general, is that I still feel there are certain elements in my game that need some betterment. That's why you hit the practice courts daily and try to perfect the game."

Watch Djokovic's visit to the Today Show ahead of the US Open:

For a majority of the evening, it seemed Djokovic would cruise, much like he did against Sandgren in their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting two months ago at Wimbledon, where the Serbian dropped just six games in a 93-minute romp en route to his fourth championship at SW19. But Sandgren did well to hang in there and go for his shots in front of his home crowd, especially in the third set.

The Tennessean capitalised on a slew of unforced errors at 2-2 to break to love. And while Djokovic buckled down to break back and the pair eventually went to a tie-break, Sandgren raised his level even more. He won the first three points of the tie-break and never wavered, leaning in to ball after ball, overcoming excellent defence by Djokovic throughout. 

But Djokovic was too strong in the fourth set, recovering to break the American twice, making just four unforced errors in the final frame to clinch victory after two hours, 46 minutes.

"It was just me, being me sometimes," Djokovic said of his lapse, with a smile. "The other me that my first me doesn't like."

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Looming in the fourth round for the former World No. 1 could be No. 17 seed Lucas Pouille, who battled past Cypriot veteran Marcos Baghdatis 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. The Frenchman, who reached three ATP World Tour finals in the span of a month earlier this year, including a triumph in Montpellier, is into the third round in New York for the third consecutive year.

Pouille, the No. 1 Frenchman in the ATP Rankings, has now come from a set down at the US Open five times (5-3), while he is 1-13 at the other three Grand Slams combined after losing the first set. He will next face Portuguese Joao Sousa, who was victorious at home in Estoril earlier this year.

Sousa led 2017 semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 2-0 when the Spaniard retired due to left thigh pain. It is the World No. 68’s second trip to the third round at Flushing Meadows, also doing so two years ago before losing to Grigor Dimitrov in four sets.

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