Match Reaction

Djokovic On ‘Warrior’ Swiatek & Gauff’s US Open Hopes

Serbian praises WTA stars after his second-round win in New York
August 31, 2023
Novak Djokovic eases past Bernabe Zapata Miralles on Wednesday at the US Open.
Corinne Dubreuil//ATP Tour
Novak Djokovic eases past Bernabe Zapata Miralles on Wednesday at the US Open. By ATP Staff

Novak Djokovic is well aware of the guts, determination and mental resilience required to secure Grand Slam glory.

Those are qualities the 23-time major champion sees in Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff. His own on-court positivity was praised by both WTA stars Wednesday at the US Open, and Djokovic then took the chance to reflect on Swiatek and Gauff’s respective strengths after his second-round victory against Bernabe Zapata Miralles in New York.

“Iga has been dominating the women's game last couple of years, she is a multiple Grand Slam winner. I love her devotion and dedication,” said Djokovic of WTA No. 1 Swiatek, who won her maiden US Open crown in 2022. “Maybe she's too humble to say, too modest to say, but she's got a great fighting spirit, no doubt. She's a warrior, goes out there and doesn't give a single game.

“She has probably the most bagels of anyone in women's tennis the last few years. It speaks about how seriously and professionally she's taking every single point and game on the court. So that's very admirable. I really like that kind of champion spirit and mindset.”

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The 19-year-old Gauff is chasing her maiden major title this fortnight in New York, where this year she arrived fresh from lifting the biggest single’s title of her career in Cincinnati.

“Coco is on the rise,” said Djokovic. “She's yet to win a Grand Slam, but played in a final [at Roland Garros in 2022]. She's still young, but now Brad Gilbert is on her side with the great experience of coaching some of the greats. I think things are coming together for her.

“She played really good tennis in Cincinnati and also she's been playing well here. She's got the home support, of course, which is always welcome and needed. Physically she seems to be very fit. She's striking the ball very well.”

Djokovic may not have experienced the pressures of competing as an American at the US Open, but he understands the stages that young players go through as they seek their best level. As with all young talents on the ATP Tour and WTA Tour, he feels patience is key, although he cited Gauff’s recent performances as evidence the American may be ready to take another step up.

“She broke to the kind of top of the women's game quite early. Some years ago I think she was like 16, 17, when she played fourth round of Wimbledon," said Djokovic. "It still takes some time, a few years for things to come together where you feel that you are complete as a player, that you are ready to win Slams and dominate the game. I think she is coming very close to that stage and that level. I'm sure that she has very high hopes for the US Open and she should, because she's playing really well."

Djokovic’s next assignment in New York is a third-round clash with another player renowned for his mental resilience — his fellow Serbian Laslo Djere.

“He's one of the hardest workers on the Tour,” said Djokovic of Djere. “We follow each other, not just me and him, but players in the locker rooms, in the gym, the amount of hours that one player puts or the other player puts in his time on the court. He's definitely one of the hardest workers out there. Puts a lot of hours into care for his body and trying to build his form.

“Eventually the results will come for a player like him because he's very, very dedicated and very nice guy. Very quiet. Just works hard and is a big fighter. He does his best.”

The three-time US Open champion Djokovic will step on court in confident mood, however. He has made a rapid start to his latest campaign at Flushing Meadows, dropping just 11 games across his opening two matches, and hopes to maintain that form against the World No. 38 Djere.

“I'm pleased with the way I'm feeling, playing on the court,” said Djokovic. “It can always be better, but in the first two rounds I didn't spend too much time on the court and played very solid. Hopefully I can keep building.”

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