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US Open: Novak Djokovic tested but wins to advance Grand Slam quest

Djokovic
Serbia's Novak Djokovic defeated American Jenson Brooksby on Monday at the US Open to move within three matches of completing the first men's singles calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969

NEW YORK, September 7: Novak Djokovic struggled but advanced within three matches of completing the first men’s singles calendar-year Grand Slam in 52 years on Monday by outlasting American Jenson Brooksby at the US Open.
World number one Djokovic rallied past 99th-ranked Brooksby 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to book a quarter-final encounter with Italian sixth seed Matteo Berrettini in a rematch of July’s Wimbledon final.


“It’s going to be exciting,” Djokovic said. “He loves the big stage. Big serve, big game overall. I know what to expect. Going to try to prepare a good game plan and hope for the best.”
The 34-year-old Serbian star would become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to sweep all four major titles in the same year by capturing his fourth career US Open crown.
Djokovic also seeks a men’s singles record 21st Slam trophy, which would boost him one ahead of “Big Three” rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent with injuries.
An epic shocker seemed possible when Brooksby, a 20-year-old American wildcard who hadn’t played Djokovic before, broke in the second and sixth games and fired a service winner to claim the first set in 29 minutes.
“He just played a perfect first set,” Djokovic said. “I could do nothing. I was still finding my footing on the court.
“I must say it wasn’t a great start. Jenson was pumped. He had a clear game plan. He was executing his shots tremendously. I was on my back foot. He was reading the play well for a set and a half.”
Djokovic broke in the second game of the second set, but was broken in a electrifying 20-minute fifth game, netting a backhand on Brooksby’s sixth break chance as the American raised his arms and jumped for joy.
But Djokovic broke back in the sixth game, ripping a cross-court forehand winner for a 4-2 lead, and held from there to take the 68-minute set.
“After that, I started hitting more cleanly and through the court,” said Djokovic. “Whenever I needed a serve I found my spot well. It was physical, a lot of exhausting rallies.”
In all, Djokovic won 15 of the last 20 games after the marathon broken serve, rolling to victory in the stamina test after two hours and 59 minutes.
Berrettini advanced by defeating 144th-ranked German qualifier Oscar Otte 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Tokyo Olympic champions Alexander Zverev and Belinda Bencic advanced with straight-set triumphs, as did British 18-year-old qualifier Emma Raducanu.
German fourth seed Zverev stretched his win streak to 15 matches by beating Italian 13th seed Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7).
Swiss 11th seed Bencic eliminated Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek, last year’s French Open champion, 7-6 (14/12), 6-3.
And 150th-ranked Raducanu ripped 43rd-ranked American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-1 in 66 minutes.
Raducanu is only the third qualifier to reach the US Open women’s quarter-finals after Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in 2017 and American Barbara Gerken in 1981.
Zverev, last year’s US Open runner-up, reached his seventh career Slam quarter-final and fourth in the past five Slams.
Zverev saved two set points on his serve in the 12th game of the third set and three more in the tie-breaker before Sinner netted a forehand to end matters after two hours and 25 minutes.
“That’s the last few months for me,” Zverev said. “Players with confidence know what to do in these situations. I’m happy to get through in straight sets.”
Zverev will next face 46th-ranked Lloyd Harris of South Africa, who eliminated US 22nd seed Reilly Opelka 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
Swiatek beat Bencic in their only prior meeting in February’s Adelaide final, but the Swiss hasn’t dropped a set this week and has been broken only three times.
“I’ve improved my game a lot,” Bencic said. “I’m glad to turn it around and get through.”
Bencic next plays Raducanu, a US Open debutant who hasn’t dropped a set in four matches and easily disposed of the woman who ousted top-ranked Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty.
“Belinda is a great player who is in great form,” Raducanu said. “I’m going to just have to bring it.”
Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, this year’s Wimbledon runner-up, beat Russian 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-4.
Scrappy Maria Sakkari survives gruelling three-setter to beat Bianca Andreescu
Greek Maria Sakkari emerged triumphant from a gruelling three hour, 30 minute battle with former champion Bianca Andreescu at the U.S. Open on Monday, clinching a 6-7(2) 7-6(6) 6-3 victory to reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals.
Sakkari helped the Canadian to an early break in the first set with a trio of double faults before finding her footing.
Andreescu, the 2019 champion, won a punishing 21-shot rally to open the first-set tiebreak before clinching the set with three straight points, capping it off with an ace.
Sakkari, who faces fourth seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-final, said she knew she had to change her approach to stay in the match.
“I knew that I lost the first set because I was doing some things wrong. I was not very brave. So I had to change that,” she said.
The Greek struggled with her serve again in the second set, putting up five double faults, but broke her opponent in the second game to get her nose in front. She then held serve in an 11th game that lasted 10 minutes.
The second set tiebreak went Sakkari’s way, the 17th seed clinching it at the fourth attempt.
Down 3-2 in the third set, Andreescu received treatment on her left thigh before leaving the court for a medical timeout and returning with her leg wrapped.
With Sakkari leading 5-3 and up 30-0 in the ninth game, a hurting Andreescu screamed, “This sucks!” but managed to fend off three match points before the Greek converted on a fourth.
Andreescu missed the 2020 season due to injury and the challenges of playing in the COVID-19 pandemic and failed to get beyond the first round at Wimbledon or Roland Garros this year.
Sakkari said she was prepared for the match to go even deeper but was happy it did not.
“I was prepared for 7-6 in the third. But if you know, if it comes easier then I’ll take it,” she added.
“I knew it was gonna be a very tough match. She loves this court, her best memories,” said Sakkari, who reached the Roland Garros semi-finals earlier this year.


Her win ensured there will be a new U.S. Open women’s champion this year. (AFP/Agencies)

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