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US Open Pix: Djokovic cruises; Rogers stuns Barty

Last updated on: September 05, 2021 12:43 IST
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Images from Day 6 of the 2021 US Open in New York on Saturday.

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic celebrates a point during his men's singles third round match against Kei Nishikori at the US Open. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

After tackling two US Open debutants, Novak Djokovic faced an old foe on Saturday and reached the fourth round with a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 ,6-2 win over Kei Nishikori to stay on course for a record 21st major title that would complete the calendar Grand Slam.

Following first-ever meetings with Denmark's Holger Rune and Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, Djokovic faced a seasoned campaigner in Nishikori, who was runner-up at the 2014 US Open, having beaten the Serb to move into that year's final.

 

Since then, it has been one-way traffic in the rivalry with Djokovic sweeping 17 straight contests against the Japanese player, improving his head-to-head record to 18-2.

But after Nishikori's 6-2, 6-0 quarter-final thumping at the hands of the world No. 1 at the Tokyo Olympics, the 31-year-old made Djokovic sweat for his victory.

"So far the toughest match of the tournament for me," said Djokovic. "The opening two rounds obviously felt well, played good.

"But the pace of the ball and the speed of Nishikori's tennis today was just higher than the opening two rounds' opponents that I had."

Matinee Appearance 

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic serves against Kei Nishikori. Photograph: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Usually the headliner under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights, Djokovic made a matinee appearance on Saturday and appeared unsettled by the conditions as he went to work under a blazing sun.

For the first time this week New York fans, who have not always embraced Djokovic, got behind the history-hunting Serb, showering him with cheers that had largely gone to his opponents.

While Djokovic did not need the fans to get through the opening week, he knows the path gets harder and at some point will most likely need the energy the crowd can bring to get him through a rough patch.

"Arthur Ashe is the place where you bring the energy," said Djokovic.

"That's where you feel this kind of electric atmosphere, particularly in the matches like this where it's decided in a few points.

"Yeah, the crowd was involved. It was loud. It was nice. I thrived on that."

Workmanlike effort

IMAGE: Kei Nishikori congratulates Novak Djokovic at the end of their match. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

A tight opening set was snatched by Nishikori in a tiebreak before Djokovic began to settle into the contest, breaking the Japanese player twice in the second on his way to leveling the match at a set apiece.

In another workmanlike effort, the top seed took the decisive break in the third to go ahead 5-3, then held serve for a 2-1 lead. Now in control, Djokovic would leave Nishikori no openings to hope for a comeback, storming through the last four games of the fourth set to close out the contest in style.

Djokovic now awaits the winner of the match between US wildcard Jenson Brooksby and Russian Aslan Karatsev.

Rogers shocks No. 1 Barty

IMAGE: Shelby Rogers reacts after defeating Ashleigh Barty in her women’s singles third round match. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

American Shelby Rogers staged a comeback for the ages shocking world number one Ash Barty 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5) in the third round.

The 43rd-ranked Rogers recovered from a 5-2 deficit in the third set to push the affair into a tiebreak, securing the biggest upset of the tournament thus far in front of an electric New York crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"I just tried to fight for every point. That's so cliche, I'm sorry. You guys were awesome. I didn't want to leave," said Rogers.

"I just said you know make balls, try to stay in this match, can't get any worse, you lost to her every time. So, try something different."

There were early signs of trouble for heavy favorite Barty, who handed Rogers a break with four double faults in the third game, and got fewer than half of her first serves in as she committed 17 unforced errors during the first set.

The Wimbledon champion found her form in the second set, getting a critical break in the fourth game with a forehand winner and again converting on break point in the sixth as Rogers whacked the ball into the net.

Up two breaks in the final set, Barty appeared poised to walk away with the win but couldn't hang on as her stellar 2021 crashed to an end.

‘I felt like the harder I hit the ball’

IMAGE: Shelby Rogers returns against Ashleigh Barty. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

An astonished Rogers held her hands to her face as she clinched the match, defeating Barty for the first time in six meetings.

"I was just trying to stay in the point longer than Ash. She was handling my pace really well tonight. I felt like the harder I hit the ball, the better she hit," said Rogers, the only American woman remaining in the tournament.

It was the second major upset of the women's tournament at Flushing Meadows, after 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez defeated four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka on Friday.

Rogers will face Britain's teen phenom Emma Raducanu in the fourth round.

Raducanu races into last 16

Great Britain's Emma Raducanu returns against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo.

IMAGE: Great Britain's Emma Raducanu returns against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo. Photograph: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

British teenager Emma Raducanu extended her dream run at Flushing Meadows with a stunning 6-0, 6-1 win over Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo to race into the last 16.

The 18-year-old Raducanu, who burst onto the scene earlier this year by reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in her first Grand Slam appearance, was utterly dominant against Tormo, closing out the one-sided match in 70 minutes.

Raducanu, who came to New York ranked 150th in the world, has breezed through all three of her matches without dropping a set and won a hugely impressive 79% of her first-serve points while smashing 23 winners past her hapless opponent.

"I was playing very well and I know Sara is an extremely tough opponent," Raducanu said in her on-court interview. "I had to work so hard and there were some really long deuce games that could have gone either way.

"I'm just very glad I was able to maintain it and win in the end. For this one the plan was I had to hit through her and into the corners. I just took the game to her and I hit more winners than errors today."

The 24-year-old Sorribes Tormo, the world number 41, had no answer to the youngster's combination of power, guile and court coverage, folding meekly and managing just five winners in the face of Raducanu's relentless onslaught.

The only blemish for the Briton came when serving for the match as nerves got the better of her and she let a 30-0 lead slip to allow her opponent to get on the scoresheet before sealing the win on Sorribes Tormo's serve in the next game.

Pliskova aces third-round challenge

The Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova sent down 20 aces during her third-round match against Ajla Tomljanovic.

IMAGE: The Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova sent down 20 aces during her third-round match against Ajla Tomljanovic. Photograph: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Fourth seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova rocketed 20 aces past third-round foe Ajla Tomljanovic to win 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday, keeping her bid for a maiden major title on track at the US Open.

The Wimbledon runner-up had 20 winners in the first set and fended off all five break point opportunities as a handful of costly errors from Tomljanovic, including a double fault in the sixth game to hand Pliskova the break, hampered the Australian's efforts.

Pliskova didn't drop a single first-serve point in the second set, closing out the affair in an hour and 11 minutes at the Flushing Meadows Grandstand with a trio of aces in the final game.

Pliskova, who dug out a tense, three-set match over American Amanda Anisimova in the second round, next faces either Varvara Gracheva or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, both from Russia.

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