There are not many players who can claim victories or even close encounters with Roger Federer this summer, but two were in action on the second day of the US Open here yesterday. Both were at the top of their game, Novak Djokovic beating Robin Haase 6-2, 6-1, 6-3, and Lleyton Hewitt brushing aside Amer Delic 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
Djokovic has firmly established himself as the world's third best player this year behind Federer and Rafael Nadal. Earlier this month he became the first man to beat both in the same tournament in winning the Masters series event in Montreal.
The 20-year-old Serb was far too good for Haase, who came into the draw as a lucky loser following Mario Ancic's withdrawal through injury. Djokovic hit 35 winners, won 87 per cent of his points on first serve and had only one break point against him, which he saved.
From Montreal the men's tour headed for another Masters event in Cincinnati, where Federer overcame Hewitt in the semi-finals, but only after being taken to a third set tie-break. In Montreal Hewitt had lost in straight sets to the world No 1 in the quarter-finals.
"In Cincinnati, I had chances throughout the match," Hewitt recalled yesterday. "Every set I had opportunities to break, put pressure on. Even though I lost in straight sets in Montreal I felt the same way. He just played extremely confidently on the big points when he needed to."
James Blake was pushed hard by his fellow American, Michael Russell, but recorded his 18th win in 21 matches on hard courts this summer to win 7-6, 6-3, 7-6. The three sets took nearly two and three-quarter hours, an indication of the fight put up by Russell, who is the world No 65.
Martina Hingis, who has been troubled by hip and back injuries in recent weeks, returned to form with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over France's Mathilde Johansson. Svetlana Kuznetsova, the No 4 seed, made a confident start, beating the Czech Republic's Klara Zakopalova 6-2, 6-3, but Daniela Hantuchova, the No 9 seed, was beaten 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 by Ukraine's Julia Vakulenko.
The Williams sisters began their campaigns on Monday night. Venus had a comfortable win over Hungary's Kira Nagy, but Serena, in her first match since injuring her thumb at Wimbledon, gave a scratchy display in beating Germany's Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-5.