After dropping a first-set tiebreaker to tour veteran Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic appeared hungry like a wolf — his favourite predator.
After breaking Nishikori early within the second set, Djokovic set free a howl, and the remaining was comparatively straightforward Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Djokovic posted a four-set victory over Nishikori, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, to maneuver into the fourth spherical of the U.S. Open — 4 matches from finishing the Grand Slam.
Djokovic’s spouse, Jelena, sat within the stands sporting a black T-shirt inscribed “Wolf.’’
The Serbian has talked a few particular bond with wolves since his childhood in Serbia. He has channeled that vitality on the courtroom alongside the best way to twenty main titles and the primary three majors of 2021. Yet another Open title, and he could have gained all 4 majors in a single 12 months for the Grand Slam — not completed by a males’s participant since Rod Laver in 1969.
That his spouse was sporting a “Wolf’’ T-shirt was no coincidence.
“She runs with the wolf,’’ Djokovic mentioned within the on-court interview. “It may be very traumatic to run with the wolf, and she or he doesn’t get pleasure from it always. It’s sort of residing on the sting operating with the wolf. However I like her, and she or he’s given nice assist.’’
Djokovic’s spouse laughed as her husband went on his wolf spiel. And the couple will probably be laughing into historical past if Djokovic wins a dozen extra units at Flushing Meadows. He’ll subsequent meet the winner of the third-round match between Twenty first-seeded Aslan Karatsev of Russia and American wild-card Jenson Brooksby. Djokvoic known as Karatsev “clever’’ and “unorthodox.’’
Nishikori, who beat Djokovic within the 2014 Open semifinals, however had misplaced 16 straight in opposition to him, gave the Serbian a scare by profitable the primary set. The satisfaction of Japan fought off an early break level to win the sport after which broke Djokovic early earlier than they barreled right into a tiebreaker.
At 4-4, Nishikori reeled off three straight factors for the set, and the gang was in full roar, taking a look at a possible upset. Nishikori, a baseline battler, struck a stunning backhand lob over the net-charging Djokovic for a 5-4 lead. Djokovic then hit two unforced errors, and the gang was jacked.
“I don’t assume I began off too nicely,’’ Djokovic mentioned. “I used to be too passive and too far again on the courtroom. Starting of the second set, I felt I’m getting my rhythm again. Sooner or later, I wasn’t at my greatest, however I used to be decided and concentrated.’’
Djokovic, 34, has misplaced two units in his first three matches as he marches towards historical past. Perhaps he’s not in high kind, however he’s nonetheless thought-about a favourite to drag this off.
If he wins the fourth-round match, he may face a three-match gauntlet of Matteo Berrettini within the quarterfinals, Alexander Zverev within the semifinals and Daniil Medvedev within the finals.
He might want to summon all of that wolf vitality — as he has known as it.