Will Novak Djokovic's Hard-Court Dominance Continue at 2014 US Open?

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Will Novak Djokovic's Hard-Court Dominance Continue at 2014 US Open?
Al Bello/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic plays a backhand shot during a third-round match at the 2014 U.S. Open.

Novak Djokovic has emerged from his post-Wimbledon fog and appears to be coasting toward his fifth consecutive U.S. Open final.

On Monday, he defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.

Despite his suspect performance in Toronto and Cincinnati, Djokovic has ruled the hard courts this season. He dominates the same way Rafael Nadal reigns on clay.

This year, Djokovic's winning percentage on hard courts is above 90. That's better than Nadal's record on clay (.897).

Djokovic has yet to drop a set at this year's U.S. Open. The second set against Kohlschreiber was the only time he gave up more than four games in a set.

Can the sizzling Serbian maintain this high level of play for the rest of the tournament?

Of course. Right now, he looks unbeatable. The fast courts at Flushing Meadows suit his quick-strike style. His backhand winners are swift and precise. His movement simply wears the opponent down.

After his match, Djokovic spoke with reporters about how his play at this tournament compares to his performance in 2011, when he won the U.S. Open:

Well, 2011, I played great tennis, you know, throughout the whole tournament...2012 was the same but didn't manage to make that final step. You know, as we come closer and closer to the finish line the matches will get tougher, so that's where I will see where my game is and if I'm mentally strong enough to hold on.

He faces Andy Murray next. Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open winner, struggled in his earlier matches. He suffered full-body cramps during his opening-round match. However, he looked solid in a straight-sets win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Murray entered the U.S. Open with an 18-8 record on hard courts this year. Not bad. However, he has looked less focused than Djokovic.

Meanwhile, except for a post-wedding mini-slump, Djokovic has been the most consistent of the Big Four. It's his 22nd consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal. He reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, where he lost to eventual winner Stan Wawrinka. He made it to the finals at the French Open and won Wimbledon.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic, seen here serving at the 2014 U.S. Open, has yet to drop a set.

Djokovic is playing brilliantly efficient tennis. He's played 39 fewer games than Murray at this tournament.

He's also adjusting to the varying conditions better than other players. The weather at Flushing Meadows has ranged from hot and sticky to humid and windy. Djokovic seems ready for anything thrown his way.

Wind was a factor when he played Sam Querrey in the third round. Instead of going for more winners, Djokovic played it safe against the unforced-error-prone Querrey.

Querrey took note and explained to reporters that it was the right tactic to take.

"I feel like he wasn't really going for too many shots today. Just being consistent in the wind. Making me play. Making me hit a lot of balls. Really in his mind I think he was just like, 'I'm not going to make an error.' ... It worked really well against me," he said.

During a post-match press conference, Djokovic told reporters that his game is finally coming together.

"It's peaking at the right time, at the right tournament. This is where I want to play my best tennis."

 

Statistics courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com and USOpen.org.

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