Novak Djokovic, the tough young Serbian who has climbed to No 3 in the world on the strength of some battling performances, notably when capturing this year's Australian Open title, was on the brink of collapse after keeping alive his dream to become US Open champion. Djokovic, who was pushed all the way in a gripping fourth- round encounter with the Spaniard Tommy Robredo, will have encouraged his quarter-final opponent Andy Roddick with the tone of his post-match analysis.
"Whoever I play next he will be physically fitter than me, that's for sure," said an exhausted and partially injured Djokovic before learning that it would be the 2003 champion Roddick. Djokovic, who had to defy a painful hip problem as well as a stubborn Robredo before celebrating his 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory, was relieved that the 15th-seeded Spaniard ran out of steam before he did. "I didn't feel well out there," said Djokovic, who had also tottered on the brink of an early exit in his previous match against Marin Cilic.
"The moment I stepped on the court I felt I had less energy in the tank. I really tried to forget about that, to eliminate those things. I had to take a medical time-out a couple of times, go to the bathroom, because there were just many things involved. I want to do everything I can to win." Roddick, by comparison, enjoyed a surprisingly comfortable victory in the Arthur Ashe stadium at the expense of the usually powerful Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, the Olympic silver medallist.
The New York crowd were enthralled by the quality of Roddick's tennis as the American swept to a 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 victory to show Djokovic and Roger Federer, who was also taken to five sets, how it should be done. "Novak has made himself one of the elite players. I have just got to try to get the upset," said Roddick, who defeated Djokovic on the way to winning the Dubai Championships in March. Roddick admitted that his form and level of fitness on the way to Flushing Meadows did not make him a contender to repeat his success as a home winner five years ago but is now revising that opinion.
"Now I'm in line to make something really good happen. If you get through the next one, then you know you've got a shot at it. It's been a long time since I've played consecutive matches pretty well." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org