Novak Djokovic struts his stuff at US Open
NEW YORK // Always eager to entertain fans at the US Open with more than his tennis skills, Novak Djokovic dusted off some dance moves this time.
Djokovic cut a rug on court while music blared over the Arthur Ashe Stadium loudspeakers last night after he improved his 2011 win/loss record to 60-2 by beating the world No 39 Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.
During his post-match interview, Djokovic decided to change the subject and make note of someone in the stands who had been grooving to songs played during changeovers.
"Need to congratulate the dancer up there. He was amazing. Let's just talk about him. Leave tennis aside. You, man, you can dance. Really. Unbelievable," Djokovic said.
And that's when the 24-year-old Serb requested some music so he could dance a bit, too.
It's the sort of extroverted display that Djokovic has engaged in during past US Opens. After one match, he demonstrated his spot on impersonations of other top players, including Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal. After another, he played some points for fun with the seven-time major champion John McEnroe.
"A New York crowd, especially in the night matches, is very special. They really get involved. They have a lot of fun. They're very loud," Djokovic said. "Every grand slam has something special about it. Wimbledon is very quiet. Here it's all about entertainment."
Djokovic is nothing but serious when it comes to his tennis, though. Especially this season.
The world No 1 Djokovic is trying to win his third grand slam championship of the year and fourth of his career.
He is seeking his first title at the US Open, where he was the runner-up to Roger Federer in 2007 and to Nadal last year.
"I know most people expect top players to get to the late stages of the tournament, so there's extra pressure on us," Djokovic said. "But it's a challenge we're ready to accept. This is what we work all our lives for, to be on this court."
Davydenko is a four-time major semi-finalist, including twice at the US Open, but he was not able to provide too much resistance against Djokovic.
"Today, he was not only better physically but had the better concentration," Davydenko said. "He fought better."
Next up for Djokovic is a match against the No 22 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, who beat Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
"Now we are in the second week," Djokovic said, "and we are expecting tough matches."
Elsewhere, Roger Federer needed four sets to reach the fourth round, showing the kind of fight that he finds curiously lacking in too many other players at this tournament.
The No 3 seeded Federer won 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 against Croatia's Marin Cilic, progressing to the fourth round in a men's draw that saw two other players quit when trailing.
Tomas Berdych, the No 9 seed, retired with a shoulder injury and the No 31 Marcel Granollers through a pulled abdominal muscle, raising the total retirements in men's and women's singles to a record 14 by the third round.
Never before had more than 12 players stopped during a match throughout the course of any entire grand slam tournament in the Open era.
"For me, it is shocking to see so many retirements. I have never retired in my whole life, except once when I played against [James] Blake in Paris, but I didn't even walk onto the court. For me it doesn't matter how bad I'm feeling, I will be out there and giving it a try, because you never know what's gonna happen," the 16-time major champion Roger Federer said.
"Look, every player feels different," he added. "It's unfortunate it happens."
Federer's next opponent will be the unseeded Argentine Juan Monaco, who came from a set down to beat Tommy Haas 6-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
American Mardy Fish, seeded eighth, also moved into the fourth round with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 win over the South African Kevin Anderson. Fish's next task will be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
In the women's draw, the No 7 seed Francesca Schiavone defeated Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 to set up a clash with Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova; a 6-4, 6-4 winner over the former world No 1 Jelena Jankovic.
No 10 seed Andrea Petkovic also moved into the round of 16 with a 6-4, 6-0 thrashing of Roberta Vinci, and in the fourth round will take on Carla Suarez Navarro, who took an all-Spanish match against Silva Soler-Espinosa 6-0, 6-4.
Also progressing was Serena Williams, who was dominant early and closed out a straight sets win over No 4 seed Viktoria Azarenka 6-1, 7-6.
That set up an intriguing fourth-round match with Ana Ivanovic. The Serb appears to belatedly be getting back to the form that once carried her to the No 1 ranking, beating the American teenager Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-4.
Williams may be seeded an unfamiliar No 28 but she showed why so many still regard her as the title favourite, racing to a 5-0 lead inside 17 minutes against an accomplished player like Azarenka.
"What's it like? It's painful," said Azarenka, who won eight points in those opening five games. "To have somebody just going at you like that, it's a little bit painful."
Eventually, though, Azarenka straightened her own play out enough to make things interesting in the second set. She erased four match points, broke when Williams served for the match at 5-3, and left Williams saying she was not pleased.
The 29-year-old already owns 13 major championships, including three at the US Open, which is why, when she was asked how she can play so well now, Williams replied: "I was a pretty good player before. So just trying to get back into that rhythm and feel it again."
Ivanovic was looking forward to being back in the grand slam spotlight for the big match against Williams.
"It's exciting, at least for me. She's the hottest player out there at the moment. She's been playing so well lately. It is going to be a good challenge," Ivanovic said.
Ivanovic acknowledged that Williams will be the "favourite, that's for sure" but also said: "I know I can give her a tough match. She beat me in the past, but maybe I can go for revenge on Monday."