Novak Djokovic has 12 major championships on his resume, and he took an important step toward adding another one Tuesday with a victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2016 U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York.
Djokovic officially advanced when Tsonga retired with a left knee injury, per Nick McCarvel of USA Today, but the world's No. 1 ranked player was in full control before his opponent's setback. He won the first set 6-3 and the second set 6-2 and had the appearance of someone who was well on his way to a straight-sets sweep.
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out it was business as usual for Djokovic on the U.S. Open stage:
While Djokovic was clearly the better player on Tuesday, Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times underscored just how easy the Serb has had it thus far at this year's U.S. Open with a walkover and two retirements:
Djokovic controlled the match with his serve and won an overwhelming 83 percent of his first-service points, per the U.S. Open's official website. He also received some help from the struggling Tsonga when the No. 9 seed tallied 36 unforced errors and four double-faults in the first two sets before retiring.
The players stayed on serve in the early going, but Tsonga had an opportunity to earn the initial break when he went up 30-0 in the fifth game. However, Djokovic bounced back and went ahead 3-2 and parlayed that momentum into the first break of the match.
Tsonga double-faulted three times during the game, and Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine noted just how quickly the momentum can turn against the world's top-ranked player:
Tsonga won a break of his own to climb back into the set, but Djokovic immediately answered with another break and then won the set, 6-3. The U.S. Open shared one of his winners:
Djokovic continued rolling in the second set with a break in the third game. The unforced errors persisted for Tsonga, and Djokovic did not miss the opportunities to take advantage of them and build on his momentum.
Bryant compared Djokovic to a boa constrictor who was "squeezing the life and belief out of Tsonga" in the second set. That is exactly what the Serbian star did on his way to the 6-2 victory in the second.
ESPN Tennis noted Djokovic was an incredible 164-1 in majors after he won the first set.
That moved to 165-1 after Tsonga retired. The U.S. Open passed along Djokovic's final point of the day, which was an ace:
Djokovic was almost assuredly going to win Tuesday's match regardless of the retirement, but it saved his legs another set or two of action. He will be quite fresh heading into the semifinals as he chases another major championship.
Djokovic faces No. 10 seed Gael Monfils in the semifinals for the right to play for the U.S. Open title. No. 2 seed Andy Murray and No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka are each on the other side of the bracket and loom as potential showdowns in the final.
First, Djokovic has to get past Monfils, who looked to be a formidable foe during his quarterfinals victory over Lucas Pouille. Monfils won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, and was never legitimately challenged after he won that first set. Monfils also notched 13 aces during the match and could test Djokovic with the serve.
However, Djokovic should have the edge in confidence going into the match considering he is a perfect 12-0 against Monfils in his career, per the ATP World Tour's website. That confidence will only grow if he gets off to a quick start and sets the tone in the first set.
Djokovic looked like a dominant force on Tuesday and has never lost to Monfils. Expect him to reach another major championship.
Djokovic discussed his victory and the fact it was yet another retirement for his opponent, per Greg Garber of ESPN.com: “I came out with the right intensity, the level of my game has raised. As the tournament progresses, I feel like I’m getting better…To have three retirements on the road to the semifinals, I can only wish all my opponents a speedy recovery.”
Djokovic was also asked if there was any concern about rust from a lack of playing time. He said, per Garber, “Not really. At this stage of the season, considering some of the physical issues, this is the scenario that I needed and I wished for. Get a lot of days off, recovered my body. I’m feeling very close to the peak, and that’s where I want to be.”
That is a frightening proposition to his future opponents.
*All stats are courtesy of the U.S. Open's website.