Djokovic Delight At ‘Lights-Out’ Return To Arthur Ashe
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Novak Djokovic made short work of his first-round clash against Alexandre Muller on Monday at the US Open, where the second seed raced to a 95-minute victory in his first match at the hard-court major since 2021. On the surface it appeared a routine opening triumph for the 23-time Grand Slam champion, but Djokovic later acknowledged there was something different about his 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 win on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I was excited to go out on the court,” said the 36-year-old in his post-match press conference. “I didn't care if I started after midnight because I was looking forward to this moment for few years, to be out on the biggest stadium in our sport, the loudest stadium in our sport, playing a night session.
“It was a great joy to be stepping out on the court. I think the performance explains how I felt tonight, particularly in the first two sets. It was kind of lights-out tennis really, almost flawless, a perfect first set.”
Djokovic fired 32 winners and converted eight of 13 break points he earned in his maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with the World No. 84 Muller. It was a continuation of the fine form the Serbian showed in Cincinnati, where he lifted his record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 crown eight days ago at the Western & Southern Open.
“I probably had the answer for every shot he had in his book,” said Djokovic. “Overall, I'm very, very pleased with the way I feel, with the way I'm playing. Hopefully I can maintain that level. It's just the beginning of the tournament, but I already like the level of tennis.”
Prior to Monday, Djokovic’s most recent outing on Arthur Ashe Stadium was the 2021 championship match against Daniil Medvedev, who denied the Serbian a historic calendar-year Grand Slam with a straight-sets victory. However, the disappointment of that loss has done little to temper Djokovic’s affection for a court on which he has appeared in a record nine US Open men’s singles finals and lifted the trophy three times.
“It is the biggest stadium we have in tennis. This court has seen so much history and so many battles,” said Djokovic. “Everyone knows in tennis that night sessions at Arthur Ashe definitely are the most exciting, fun, loud, energetic sessions you can have out there on the tennis world.
“It's the size. It's the echo because of the roof construction. It's everything combined. Just people, New Yorkers, love their tennis. They don't care if they stay up very late, post-midnight, because they get excited.
“I love it. It's great because every Grand Slam has its own charm in a way. Comparing to, for example, Wimbledon, it's a complete contrast. In Wimbledon it's different than here. Here is all about entertainment, fun, good energy, good vibes.
“If you can feed on that, you'll have a lot of fun.”