Djokovic close to 'perfect' match
He has had a sensational year and for a while it seemed as though he might achieve the ultimate victory.
Novak Djokovic, who has lost only two matches since last November, won 14 games in a row at the start of his second-round match against Carlos Berlocq here last night and was on his way to a "triple bagel" victory until his Argentine opponent finally got his name on the scoreboard. The world No 1 eventually won 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 to take his place in the third round, in which he will meet Nikolay Davydenko.
"The first two sets were ideal," Djokovic said afterwards. "I could not play better. I was getting a lot of balls back. I was ending the points when I needed to. I was making a lot of winners. My serve was OK, my return was great. I felt fantastic on the court. There is not much I can say when everything seems fun and enjoyable when you're playing such good tennis."
Had he thought at any stage about the possibility of winning the match without losing a game? "I was really trying to focus on each game, not thinking about the end of the match," Djokovic said. "But the crowd got involved in the third set. It was great. We needed that. We needed that in the match. He started playing better. He started making some winners, some good shots."
Djokovic added: "I've been playing this well for a while this year. I've been playing some matches where I felt that I could not miss the ball. As a tennis player, as any athlete, when you're playing perfectly everything seems so good and you're so happy because that's exactly where you want your game to be, at the top, at the highest possible level.
"We're working hard each day. This is a tournament definitely where I want to perform my best, so I'm not under-estimating any opponents. I'm taking seriously every single match I play, even though I'm expected to win most of them, especially in the opening rounds. But I try not to get relaxed. I try to get my job done as quickly as possible and save the energy for upcoming challenges."
When Berlocq finally won a game he received a standing ovation from the crowd. He went on to win one more, but Djokovic provided the last moment of entertainment when he hit a "hot dog" shot between his legs to reach match point, a bemused Berlocq putting his subsequent volley into the net.
With the Irishman Conor Niland retiring with food poisoning in his first-round match against Djokovic, the 24-year-old Serb has lost just three games in the first two rounds. "I've played a lot of matches this year, so I don't think I lack any time on the court," he said. "I just like the matches going this way."
Whether the fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium thought the same was another matter. Djokovic's victory on Thursday night followed a similarly one-sided match between the women's world No 1, Caroline Wozniacki, who lives next door to her male counterpart in Monte Carlo, and Arantxa Rus, of the Netherlands. Wozniacki won 6-2, 6-0.
Djokovic said: "One of the guys on the way out actually said to me: 'Hey, listen, I paid 100 bucks. You're staying an hour and a half on the court. That's a lot to pay for a ticket. Give me something so I get back home with a happy face. Give me a racket or something'."
It was Djokovic's 59th victory in 61 matches this year. His only defeats were against Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open and against Andy Murray in the final of last month's Cincinnati Masters, when the Serb retired with a shoulder problem when trailing in the second set.
With Murray and Rafael Nadal in the other half of the draw – the Scot was playing Robin Haase last night while the Spaniard faced Nicolas Mahut – Djokovic is on course for another semi-final showdown here with Federer. They have met in the last four of two other Grand Slam tournaments this year, the Serb having beaten the Swiss on his way to the title in Melbourne before Federer earned his revenge in Paris. Both contests were among the best matches of the year and followed a superb semi-final here 12 months ago, when Djokovic saved two match points before winning in five sets.
Federer is also looking in excellent shape here, having followed up his straight-sets victory over Santiago Giraldo in the first round with a 77-minute work-out against Israel's Dudi Sela. Federer won 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to claim his 225th victory at a Grand Slam tournament, which took him clear of Andre Agassi's total and left him just eight short of Jimmy Connors' all-time record. Federer dropped only seven points on his serve in the whole match.
Nevertheless, the former world No 1 should have a much harder challenge in the third round today. Federer plays Croatia's Marin Cilic, who was expected to be tested by Bernard Tomic but beat the Australian teenager 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 in an hour and a half. Cilic hit 34 winners to Tomic's nine and broke serve eight times.
US Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, US: Yesterday:
Women's Singles Third Round: M Niculescu (Rom) bt (27) L Safarova (Cz Rep) 6-0 6-1. Thursday's results: Men's Singles Second Round: (1) N Djokovic (Serb) bt C Berlocq (Arg) 6-0 6-0 6-2; N Davydenko (Rus) bt P Starace (It) 6-2 6-4 7-5; (22) A Dolgopolov (Ukr) bt F Cipolla (It) 6-0 7-5 2-6 5-7 6-4; I Karlovic (Croa) bt (13) R Gasquet (Fr) 6-4 6-2 2-6 7-6; (9) T Berdych (Cz Rep) bt F Fognini (It) 7-5 6-0 6-0; (20) J Tipsarevic (Serb) bt P Petzschner (Ger) 6-0 6-3 3-6 6-3; (31) M Granollers (Sp) bt M Kukushkin (Kaz) 7-5 6-3 6-4; J Carlos Ferrero (Sp) bt (7) G Monfils (Fr) 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 6-7 6-4 6-4; (3) R Federer (Swit) bt D Sela (Isr) 6-3 6-2 6-2; (27) M Cilic (Croa) bt B Tomic (Aus) 6-1 6-0 6-2; J Monaco (Arg) bt (23) R Stepanek (Cz Rep) 6-4 6-1 2-0 ret; T Haas (Ger) bt A Falla (Col) 7-6 6-1 7-5; (11) J Tsonga (Fr) bt S Bubka (Ukr) 6-3 7-5 6-2; (19) F Verdasco (Sp) bt M Ilhan (Tur) 6-4 6-3 6-1; K Anderson (SA) bt (29) M Llodra (Fr) 6-1 6-2 6-2; (8) M Fish (US) bt M Jaziri (Tun) 6-2 6-2 6-4. Women's Singles Second Round: (1) C Wozniacki (Den) bt A Rus (Neth) 6-2 6-0; V King (US) bt (29) J Gajdosova (Aus) 6-2 6-0; A Amanmuradova (Uzb) bt P Parmentier (Fr) 6-3 7-5; (15) S Kuznetsova (Rus) bt E Baltacha (GB) 6-4 6-3; (10) A Petkovic (Ger) bt J Zheng (Chin) 3-6 6-3 6-3; (18) R Vinci (It) bt A Cornet (Fr) 6-2 6-3; S Soler Espinosa (Sp) bt (31) K Kanepi (Est) 6-4 6-2; C Suarez-Navarro (Sp) bt S Halep (Rom) 3-6 6-2 6-2; (4) V Azarenka (Bela) bt G Dulko (Arg) 6-4 6-3; (28) S Williams (US) bt M Krajicek (Neth) 6-0 6-1; S Stephens (US) bt (23) S Peer (Isr) 6-1 7-6 (7-4); (11) J Jankovic (Serb) bt J Dokic (Aus) 6-3 6-4; (17) A Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) bt P Martic (Croa) 6-4 2-6 6-4; C Scheepers (SA) bt M Barthel (Ger) 6-4 7-5; (7) F Schiavone (It) bt M Lucic (Croa) 6-1 6-1. *Seeded players in capitals
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