That’s the ringing chant Novak Djokovic heard from the packed home at Arthur Ashe Stadium within the first match of his march towards historical past Tuesday night time. It was particularly evident throughout a wild second set.
The U.S. Open night time crowd of 21,000 was pulling arduous for fist-pumping qualifier Holger Rune. The 18-year-old from Denmark began to really feel his oats within the second set and evened the first-round match at 1-1 after a stirring tiebreaker earlier than finally shedding, partly resulting from cramps.
Each Djokovic and Rune have been confused on the chants at first, pondering possibly they have been boos. Not fairly.
“It was not excellent environment for me — I can inform you that,’’ Djokovic stated. “However I’ve been in these specific atmospheres earlier than, so I knew the way to deal with it.”
This was no cakewalk for the boys’s high seed. However any probability of Rune ruining Djokovic’s bid for the primary males’s Grand Slam since 1969 ended halfway by means of the third set.
Djokovic gained management and Rune abruptly cramped up and limped towards the end. And the cheering stopped.
Djokovic posted a 6-1, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2, 6-1 victory, but it surely raised questions whether or not the 34-year-old Serbian will get the group on his facet within the subsequent six matches — if he will get to all of them.
Djokovic is gunning to be the primary man to win all 4 majors in a single yr since Rod Laver captured Wimbledon, together with the Australian, French and U.S. Opens, in 1969. Djokovic can also be a U.S. Open title away from shifting previous Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the all-time file for main championships at 21.
Do the Open followers need to see this occur or not? Djokovic has at all times been less-favored than Federer and Nadal.
“Clearly you at all times want to have crowd behind you, but it surely’s not at all times potential,’’ Djokovic stated. “There are issues you may at all times depend on, return to if you end up experiencing turbulence. When it will get an excessive amount of, I’ve developed a mechanism the place I really feel like I can mentally deal with that.’’
Djokovic appeared oddly indifferent on the court docket, with no feelings, good or unhealthy.
After Djokovic cruised within the first set, he bought shaky and Rune’s play lifted — with an array of daring drop photographs and working forehand winners, punctuated by shaking his fists towards the adoring crowd.
Within the second set, Rune took a 3-0 lead earlier than the Serbian rallied again for 4 straight video games to go up 4-3. As an alternative of caving, Rune bought higher. He broke Djokovic, forcing a tiebreaker.
“I used to be making an attempt to really feel the ball on the market,’’ Djokovic stated. “Not one of the best efficiency. However he performed nicely within the second set.’’
Because the second-set tiebreaker was starting, the group rose to its toes, giving the Dane a standing ovation. He jumped to a 4-0 lead within the tiebreak with the group swooning “Ruuuuuuune” after each level he captured — even after a Djokovic double fault.
Whereas Djokovic rallied to inside 6-5, he couldn’t get out of the opening. After an extended rally, Djokovic hit lengthy. The stadium exploded and Rune leapt, shaking his fists some extra.
“I by no means felt something like this,’’ Rune stated. “It was [an] unbelievable feeling. I attempted to offer the group one thing, battle for each level, be pumped. The gang was unbelievable. I imply, I couldn’t have requested for extra.’’
Finally, all these theatrics led to bother. It was 1-1 and that’s the place the storybook upset ended.
Djokovic bought off to a sizzling begin and the humidity and maybe adrenaline ruined Rune. He began to really feel it in his legs and wanted a coach after Djokovic went up 4-1. Rune was visibly limping as he retook the court docket. Cramping doesn’t permit for the usual 10-minute harm timeouts.
Djokovic stated beneficiant phrases to Rule as they shook arms on the web — the Serbian seemingly giving him a recreation at 5-0 within the fourth set with lazy returns.
He referred to as Rune one of many “up-and-coming stars.’’
“It’s unlucky he needed to undergo it,’’ Djokovic stated. “He didn’t need to cease. I believed he’s going to cease the top of the third. He simply saved going with dignity, completed off the match. He deserved positively my respect.’’
Djokovic will face one other obscure participant within the second spherical, Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands.
It’s the calm earlier than the storm. Djokovic might must undergo Matteo Berrettini, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev in his remaining three matches. With the group or with out.