Novak Djokovic once again cemented his status as the clear favorite at the U.S. Open Saturday with a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over American Sam Querrey in the third round at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
Djokovic was never threatened throughout the match, and the pro-American crowd certainly wasn't enough to galvanize Querrey.
Despite going out with a whimper, SI Tennis characterized his 2014 U.S. Open as a relative success:
Another sharp match from Novak Djokovic, beats Sam Querrey 63 62 62. Playes Isner or Kohlschreiber next. Positive tournament for Querrey.— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) August 30, 2014
Djokovic has looked unstoppable through three matches, and Christopher Clarey of The New York Times pointed out that marriage and the impending birth of his child seemingly haven't caused him to miss a beat:
Three matches for Djokovic: 6-1, 6-2 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Not looking too distracted— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) August 30, 2014
Although Djokovic struggled during the lead up to the U.S. Open, he put any concerns to rest as soon as he stepped onto the court in New York. He dropped just 11 games in his first- and second-round matches combined, and he was encouraged by his dominance over Paul-Henri Mathieu Thursday, per ATPWorldTour.com.
I wanted to get my job done as quick as possible. I don't feel like I need to play long matches to get into the groove. I feel that I'm hitting the ball very well. (The) second match (was) even better than the first one. Under the circumstances, I think I came up with a very good performance. (I) stayed mentally tough and (I did) not allow myself to get frustrated because of the wind and conditions that were obviously very tough for both of us.
Djoker's confidence was quite evident from the very start Saturday afternoon as he jumped all over his underdog opponent in the opening set. Querrey had a career record of 1-7 against the Serbian star prior to their third-round encounter at the U.S. Open, so perhaps that futility got in his head.
After holding to commence the match, Djokovic broke Querrey at 15. He then held for a second time and repeated the feat of a break at 15 to race out to a 4-0 in what felt like a blink of an eye.
Djokovic held for a third time to make it 5-0, and all signs pointed toward Nole bageling Querrey as the crowd favorite couldn't get anything going. As pointed out by ESPN.com's Howard Bryant, though, he was able to avoid that embarrassment:
Here on Ashe. Vowed not to tweet until Querrey got a game. Well, he did. Djokovic serving 5-1, first— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) August 30, 2014
That hold seemed to reinvigorate Querrey as he followed that up with a surprising break of Djokovic's serve. Djoker seemed to stave off one break point, but he challenged a shot prior to the end of the point, which erased his winner.
According to Bryant, Djokovic's fair play actually ended up hurting him:
Djokovic wins point at 15-40, but reminds chair ump he stopped play to challenge a call. Call was upheld. Djokovic's honesty cost him game.— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) August 30, 2014
Things got even more worrisome for Djokovic when Querrey held once again to make it 5-3, but the top seed managed to shake it off and take the first set 6-3. Despite Querrey's temporary comeback, Bryant bashed his level of commitment and intensity after the set:
Djokovic first set 6-3. Querrey looking disinterested as usual. American, on Ashe, against no. 1 player in the world. Does he like tennis?— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) August 30, 2014
After preserving the opening set, Djokovic started the second much like he did the first. He broke Querrey twice en route to a 3-0 advantage, but his momentum was once again halted by a Querrey break from out of nowhere.
Querrey consolidated with a hold and once again gave himself some hope to get back in the match. Djokovic ended the comeback bid a bit earlier this time, though, by ripping off three consecutive games and finishing the second set 6-2.
According to Tennis.com, it took Djoker very little time to race out to what looked like an insurmountable 2-0 lead in sets:
Djokovic in cruise control, up 6-3, 6-2 over Querrey in under an hour. http://t.co/ZLL3l9SgRd— TENNIS.com (@Tennis) August 30, 2014
Querrey's serve is unquestionably his biggest weapon, but it didn't seem to trouble Djokovic whatsoever through the first two sets, per Carole Bouchard of L'Equipe:
Couldn't see each game but seems every Queerey's service games are getting assaulted by Djokovic return. And he's a big server...— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) August 30, 2014
After falling behind in each of the first two sets, Querrey battled his way to a hold at the start of the third. He fended off a pair of break points in the process, and gave himself an opportunity to build some momentum.
Unfortunately for the American, that didn't happen. Djokovic answered with a hold followed by an easy-as-pie break to yank back the advantage at 2-1. Djoker also held to make it 3-1, which caused Douglas Robson of USA Today to comment on Querrey's relative lack of energy:
Not much resistance from Querrey as Djokovic leads 63 62 31. #usopen— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) August 30, 2014
The fact that it was such a one-sided affair wasn't lost on the fans either as Djokovic's cheering section let Querrey hear it, per Dana Mattioli of the Wall Street Journal:
Yikes. Group of Serbian men chanting"this is too easy" at Djokovic/Querrey match— Dana Mattioli (@DanaMattioli) August 30, 2014
Joe Fleming of USA Today suggested that Querrey issues were more a case of Djokovic's excellent play than his own shortcomings:
Querrey had been playing well ... Alas, running into Djokovic can end that in a hurry— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) August 30, 2014
Djokovic reeled off a couple more games in a row after going up 3-1 to make it 5-1. Querrey was able to delay the inevitable, though, with his second hold of the set. It didn't take long for Djokovic to close it out after that as he held tidily to put the finishing touches on his masterpiece.
Djokovic is now through to the fourth round as expected, but the level of competition will start to heat up from this point forward. His next opponent will be the winner of the match between Philipp Kohlschreiber and John Isner, with the former probably being his preferred challenger.
Isner has a massive serve and he would have the American fans on his side, but that partisanship didn't bother Nole against Querrey.
How will Djokovic ultimately fare at the U.S. Open?
That would be followed up with a potential match against either Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters. Tsonga is in better form currently, but Murray won this event in 2012. Either way, Djoker will be favored.
If Djokovic makes it past that, then either Stanislas Wawrinka or Milos Raonic await in the semifinals before a marquee matchup against Roger Federer in the finals provided the bracket goes chalk.
The road to a title for Djokovic is more difficult than usual for a No. 1 seed, but it is certainly one he can navigate. Djoker is the best hard-court player in the world, and he is a former U.S. Open champion as well.
If he continues to play the way he has over the first three rounds of this tournament, then there is nobody who can realistically touch him. Things won't be this easy for him in the coming rounds, but there is absolutely no doubt that Djokovic is the man to beat.
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