Second seed Novak Djokovic fights back from two sets down to overcome fellow Serb Laslo Djere
IMAGES from Day 5 of the US Open, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, New York, on Friday.
A tenacious Novak Djokovic survived a US Open late night fright, battling back from two sets down to tame fellow Serb Laslo Djere 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 on Friday, and move into the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.
On the ropes and reeling Djokovic, as he has done many times before, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in front a record crowd inside a breathless Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
It marked the 38th time Djokovic has won a five-setter and kept alive the 36-year-old's quest for a fourth US Open crown that would pull him level with Margaret Court's record haul of 24 Grand Slams.
Djokovic had looked imperious in his opening two matches surrendering only 11 games in blowout wins over Frenchman Alexandre Muller and Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles but his 32nd seeded countryman proved a far tougher test.
The two Serbs had only clashed once before that in Belgrade last year but there were signs then that Djere was a danger, with the contest needing three sets and two tie-breaks before Djokovic claim the win.
Djere signalled to Djokovic he was in for more of the same on Friday when he broke the second-seed to start the match and then held his nerve the rest of set for an unexpected and well-earned 1-0 lead.
Facing one of the greatest players of all-time under the bright lights of tennis's biggest stage, a fearless Djere could not be rattled piling on the pressure with another break to go up 4-3 in the second on the way to a 2-0 lead that left Arthur Ashe Stadium stunned.
Djokovic was not without his opportunities, but did not capitalise on his chances until backed into a corner.
With the crowd still buzzing Djokovic came out for the third set with an urgency and energy missing in the opening two sets, breaking Djere at the first opportunity and again to go up 4-0 on the way to cutting the deficit to 2-1.
With cracks in Djere's game starting to appear, Djokovic continued to dial up the pressure breaking again to open the fourth set pulling a mighty fist pump from the 36-year-old.
But Djere was not done immediately breaking back, setting the stage for what was a marathon third game that saw Djokovic regain control with yet another break.
Moving in for the kill Djokovic swept the next six games to take the fourth set and a 2-0 lead in the decisive fifth that he would never surrender.
Tiafoe beats 'annoying' Mannarino to make last 16
American Frances Tiafoe overcame crafty veteran Adrian Mannarino 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6) in front of a raucous crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium to reach the fourth round.
Tiafoe, who will meet will meet Australia Rinky Hijikata, who got the better of China's Zhang Zhizhen 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, managed to convert just five of 15 break points and said the 35-year-old Frenchman's unpredictable style gave him fits in the nearly three-hour affair.
"He's so annoying to play," Tiafoe said to laughs during an on-court interview. "He's just bunting the ball around, it's so slow. You look at him and you're like, man, what's he doing?
"But it's so effective, the ball stays so low. He makes you create, he makes you feel like you want to overplay. He defends really well ... I'm happy the match is over and I won."
Tiafoe, who electrified the tournament with his run to the semi-finals last year, shrugged off his lacklustre results during the summer hard court swing leading up to the major.
"The summer is irrelevant, it's all about this tournament," said the 10th seed.
"I've always watched this tournament as a kid, I've always wanted to be out here and compete on the biggest stages and here is our biggest stadium," he said.
Last year Tiafoe became the first Black American man to reach the semis at Flushing Meadows since Arthur Ashe in 1972 and said he is determined to leave his mark on the game too.
"There's so much history here, Arthur Ashe Stadium, what a legend," he said. "I just want my name in the same sentence as his. I think that's why I play some of my best tennis here."
Tiafoe could be on a quarter-final collision course with compatriot Tommy Paul after the 14th seed overcame a third set hiccup to dispatch Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 and reach the fourth round for his first time.
Tommy Paul inspired by young fan
Paul was loudly urged on by a young superfan during his epic comeback from a two set deficit in the second round on Wednesday night and Eddy from Brooklyn returned again to lend his vocal support on Friday.
"I think we got him tickets to our box but he ended up getting better tickets right on the side of the court," Paul told reporters.
"I was definitely hearing him and it was fun. He got louder after I lost the third, which was cool. I went and talked to him a little bit after.
"It's really cool to have him there, I'm hoping he becomes famous."
Next up for Paul is 20-year-old American Ben Shelton after the 20-year-old ran away with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over Aslan Karatsev earlier on Friday.
Cirstea dumps fourth seed Rybakina
Romania's Sorana Cirstea sent big-hitting fourth seed Elena Rybakina tumbling out of the US Open with a thrilling 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 victory late on Friday to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the first time in her career.
Rybakina came into the clash the fresher of the two players after her second-round opponent Ajla Tomljanovic pulled out, but the Indian Wells and Rome champion, who had strapping on her right shoulder, made a sluggish start.
Cirstea broke the former Wimbledon champion in the fourth game of the first set and the seasoned world number 30 continued to dictate points from the centre of the court while taking an early lead in the contest.
The 33-year-old, who had lost her previous two meetings with Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, pounced early in the second set but dropped serve immediately as her opponent found her range again with some blistering groundstrokes.
Australian Open runner-up Rybakina failed to make the most of two set points at 6-5 and squandered two more chances to draw level in the tie break but got across the line with a cross-court winner, much to the joy of the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd.
But Cirstea composed herself to take charge of the decider and went up 4-1 before staving off a late comeback attempt by Rybakina and closing out the match with a decisive late break after a double fault from her opponent.
"I've been paying for quite a few years and this was the best crowd I've ever played in front of," Cirstea said. "Thank you for the support, it's 12 o'clock so thank you for hanging out and making this amazing atmosphere.
"I'm very happy with the win today. I've lost twice against her and she's a good player, number four in the world and I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I'm just so happy, it's a great moment for me."
Up next for Cirstea is a clash with Swiss 15th seed Belinda Bencic but the Romanian said she was not looking too far ahead.
"It's one match at a time," Cirstea said. "At this stage in the tournament, everyone plays great and I'm glad that the work is paying off.
"Never stop believing in the things you do and the work you do because sooner or later if you put in the right energy... the things you want in life will come to you."
Gauff storms back to overcome Mertens
Coco Gauff won the final 10 games of her match against Elise Mertens, completing a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 comeback and reaching the US Open round of 16, where she will face Caroline Wozniacki on Sunday.
The American appeared in big trouble at the outset of the match as the Belgian smartly changed up the pace of her shots to frustrate the teenager, who was broken for a second time when her forehand went long on set point.
Mertens relished her opportunity to play the spoiler in front of a sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd firmly in Gauff's corner, quieting the increasingly tense fans after smacking a first set winner.
After some exchanges of breaks early in the second set Gauff seized the momentum for good when she broke for a 4-3 lead, pumping her arms and pointing to her ear when her backhand winner leveled the contest at a set apiece.
The third set was all one-way traffic as Gauff's speedy defense, pinpoint serving and terrific play at the net overwhelmed former two-time quarterfinalist Mertens.
Next up for sixth seed Gauff is an enticing first meeting with returning veteran Wozniacki, who came from behind in similar fashion and by a similar score line earlier in the day to see off American Jennifer Brady 4-6 6-3 6-1.
Wozniacki wins battle of comeback queens
Caroline Wozniacki won the battle of US Open comeback queens by rallying to beat Jennifer Brady 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and move into the fourth round at the season's final Grand Slam.
Wozniacki and Brady have been the feel-good stories at Flushing Meadows and their storylines converged on a sun-kissed Arthur Ashe Stadium court with the 33-year-old Dane continuing her dazzling return by reaching the last 16.
It seemed improbable just weeks ago that ex-world number one Wozniacki, back playing competitive tennis's after a three-year break to raise a family, and Brady, rising star and Australian Open finalist in 2021 but sidelined for two years with knee and foot injuries, would face each other at a major.
But 28-year-old Brady, just four tournaments into her comeback, and Wozniacki, playing in her third, looked as if they had never been away by treating fans to some quality tennis that at times had the crowd on their feet.
However it was Wozniacki, twice a US Open finalist, who showed more fitness and a little less competitive rust, winning 11 of 12 games after dropping the opening set.
Having traded early breaks, the opener was decided when Wozniacki, serving at 4-5 and trying to extend the set, suddenly found herself in a 0-40 hole and took out her frustration on her racket by repeatedly smashing it onto the court.
Brady added to that irritation with a quick break to snatch the opener.
Going down a break in the second to trail 2-0, Wozniacki appeared in deep trouble but dug in to easily win the second set and race to 5-0 lead in the third.
Brady stopped the tailspin by holding for 5-1 but the result was inevitable, with Wozniacki next facing the winner of the match between American sixth seed Coco Gauff and Belgian Elise Mertens.
Swiatek routs 'sister' Juvan to enter last 16
Defending champion Iga Swiatek barely broke sweat as she produced another rock-solid performance to roll into the fourth round with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Slovenian qualifier and best friend Kaja Juvan.
Swiatek grew up with Juvan through the junior ranks and the two dined together earlier this week but for 49 minutes in Louis Armstrong Stadium their friendship was put on hold while the top-seeded Pole got down to business.
Swiatek was in total control from the start, dominating all aspects of the match throughout a one-sided opening set during which she dropped just three points on serve and converted all three of her break-points.
It was more one-way traffic in the second as Swiatek won the first 11 points en route to a 3-0 lead before Juvan finally got on the board after 40 minutes with a hold following which the world number 145 smiled and playfully raised her arms in triumph.
But the moment was short-lived for Juvan as Swiatek restored order with a hold to love and then another break before closing out the match with another routine service hold before the two players shared a warm embrace at the net.