After losing his first tie-break of the year in the opening set, Novak Djokovic raised his game on Tuesday at the US Open to improve to 25-0 this year.
The World No. 1 struck 51 winners to overcome Kyle Edmund 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 and extend his unbeaten start to the year. Djokovic has now won 28 consecutive matches, dating back to November 2019.
“It was anybody’s game really for a set and a half,” said Djokovic. “I made some breaks and then obviously after winning the second set I felt more comfortable. I was returning better, I started to read his serve better and I was pleased with my serve. Overall, it was a very good test and I am happy to get through.”
The World No. 1 has trailed by a set in three of his four most recent matches, but has consistently produced his best level in key games to change the momentum and charge to victory. At last week’s Western & Southern Open, Djokovic rallied from a set down in both his semi-final and final encounters to clinch a record-equalling 35th ATP Masters 1000 trophy.
Djokovic improves to 6-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Edmund. The top seed also trailed Edmund by a set at Wimbledon in 2018, before coming back to earn another four-set victory.
Djokovic is bidding to capture a fourth US Open trophy and 18th Grand Slam title. The Western & Southern Open champion, who has won five of the past seven major titles, is currently in third place on the Grand Slam titles leaderboard. Djokovic is two trophies behind 19-time major champion Rafael Nadal and three crowns behind 20-time Grand Slam titlist Roger Federer.
On a humid day in New York, Edmund came prepared with three pairs of shoes and an impressive game plan. The New York Open champion, who has been seen switching his shoes during changeovers, fired a series of powerful forehands in the first-set tie-break to take a one-set lead.
Edmund converted his first set point at 6/5 with a huge serve down the T, ending Djokovic’s perfect 10-0 record in tie-breaks this year. Djokovic entered the contest with a 19-1 record in his past 20 tie-breaks, dating back to his 2019 Wimbledon final victory against Roger Federer.
“Kyle played a fantastic first set,” said Djokovic. “He didn’t do much wrong, he served very well and was aggressive from the back of the court. Usually his forehand is a weapon, but [his] backhand, especially in the first set, was very strong, very solid.”
Djokovic moved away from an unsuccessful tactic of using drop shots in the second set and was gifted an early break at 2-1 when Edmund committed two double faults. The Serbian served with confidence to reach 5-3, where he recovered from 0/30 down to level the match. Djokovic clinched the set by landing his ninth ace of the match.
What. A. Forehand.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 2, 2020
In an extended game at 1-1 in the third set, Djokovic charged across the baseline to lengthen rallies and extract consecutive errors from Edmund for a 2-1 lead. With momentum on his side, Djokovic rushed Edmund with a series of flat returns at 3-1 to break to love. The game proved to be the first of four consecutive breaks, but Djokovic regained his composure to hold serve at 5-4 with a forehand winner down the line.
Djokovic earned an early advantage in the fourth set, breaking Edmund in the opening game with aggression on his backhand side. The Belgrade native charged to the finish line, converting his first match point with an overhead winner.
Djokovic will face Jan-Lennard Struff for a spot in the Round of 16. The German needed one hour and 40 minutes to move past American Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.
Djokovic owns an unbeaten 4-0 ATP Head2Head record against Struff. The pair have met twice this year, with Djokovic needing four sets to get past the 30-year-old at the Australian Open in January. At last week’s Western & Southern Open, Djokovic took just 62 minutes to claim a 6-3, 6-1 quarter-final victory.
“[Struff] is another big server. I obviously played a great match against him in the Western & Southern Open,” said Djokovic. “There are different conditions here, if we play on [Arthur Ashe Stadium]. He is a big server and there is not much breeze in here, so that probably helps the server. Let’s see. I like my chances in best-of-five.”