Djokovic Delivers Masterclass Against Struff
Novak Djokovic has alternated between night and day sessions throughout the first week of the US Open. But regardless of what time he steps on court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, his best tennis has accompanied him.
The top seed wasted little time imposing his game on Friday against No. 28 seed Jan-Lennard Struff, tracking down Struff’s powerful forehands to coax errors out of the German and pouncing on any short balls he received. One hour and 42 minutes later, the Serbian eased into the fourth round and improved to 26-0 this season with a dominant 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory, marking his 600th career hard-court win.
”It was a very good performance from my side. I managed to read his serve well,” Djokovic said. “I found my way, especially after the first set. The second and third sets were a really great feeling on the court.
“I’ve been playing well the past couple of weeks, training well, focussing on the right things, maintaining that level of performance and hoping for the best. I’m feeling confident about my game and taking that to every match I play.”
Djokovic improved to 75-11 at the US Open and has reached the second week in his past 13 appearances at this event. He maintained his flawless (5-0) record against Struff in their ATP Head2Head series, including a straight-sets win last week in the Western & Southern Open quarter-finals and a four-set triumph in January at the Australian Open.
Awaiting him in the next round is No. 20 seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who breezed past Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. The Spaniard thrives at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, having reached the 2017 US Open semi-finals and clinched his first ATP Masters 1000 doubles title last week (w/De Minaur, but trails 0-3 in his ATP Head2head rivalry with Djokovic.
“He’s a very solid player, maybe doesn’t possess any big weapons, but every shot is very good,” Djokovic said. “He returns a lot of balls, so I’ve got to be ready for a lot of exchanges. It’s going to be a demanding match physically and mentally. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue the good performance that I had tonight.”
Struff took a fearless approach in the first set against Djokovic, striking his serves with authority and flattening out his forehand in a bid to take control of rallies. But as the World No. 1 so often does, he raised his level in the closing stages of the set and grabbed the last six points for an early advantage.
Djokovic uncorked a down-the-line forehand to break Struff in the opening game of the second set and continued to apply pressure. Although the German attempted to change tactics and move forward when it became clear he couldn’t hit through his opponent, the grueling effort it takes to win points against Djokovic often led to Struff overcooking shots on key points. The top seed broke Struff again at 5-3 for a commanding two-sets lead.
He maintained his one-way dominance in the final set, breaking Struff twice more and firing a service winner to close out the match. Djokovic finished the night with 34 winners to 23 unforced errors.