“He’s one of the quickest players on the Tour. He played some really good shots and it was anybody’s game midway through the second set,” Djokovic said on court after the match. “I was pleased to close out the second set and then stepped it up [by] a couple of levels.
“I did struggle a bit [with] the semi-finals and final back to back [last week], but I had 48 hours. Not so much [time], but still enough time to recover. I felt good on the court today. The good thing about a Slam is that you only play every two days, so you have at least one day of rest and recovery. I’m going to try to use that as much as I can and gather all my energy and strength for the next one.”
Despite being in firm control throughout the match, Djokovic looked up to his team on numerous occasions. Without the typically full stadium of fans cheering him on that he’s accustomed to, the World No. 1 appeared to be looking for additional support from his entourage.
“Your team, your box, is always cheering you on. Regardless of whether you have an empty or full stadium, you always turn to them mostly. You look up to them, expect them to be with you and support you on the journey throughout the match,” Djokovic said. “Maybe you don’t want your box to clap when your opponent makes a mistake. Damir is a very good friend, so it’s a little bit awkward. But at the same time, it’s a Grand Slam, first round, biggest stadium in our sport [and] we want to start well.”
Djokovic Adds To ‘Big Titles’ Haul
All of Djokovic’s wins this year have come on hard courts. He earned his 35th ATP Masters 1000 title last week at the Western & Southern Open (d. Raonic) and now shares the record with Rafael Nadal for most Masters 1000 titles. The Serbian also edged further clear of Nadal and Roger Federer in the ‘Big Titles’ battle with a 57th trophy at that level and could increase the gap even more if he wins his 18th Grand Slam title this fortnight.
Awaiting the three-time US Open champion (2011, 2015, 2018) in the next round is Kyle Edmund, who defeated Alexander Bublik 2-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-0. Djokovic holds a 5-1 over Edmund in their ATP Head2Head, including a fourth-round win at the 2016 US Open.
Djokovic’s only blip in the first set came when he whiffed a backhand in the fourth point, but he quickly recovered and displayed his best form. The Serbian pushed Dzumhur well behind the baseline in their rallies and tossed in several crafty drop shots to end points, even throwing in a successful serve-and-volley play to close out the opening set.
Dzumhur continued to tirelessly chase down balls and mix up the pace on his shots in an effort to disrupt his opponent’s rhythm. His dogged determination was highlighted by saving six break points to hold serve at 3-3 in the second set. But Djokovic remained unfazed and broke Dzumhur at 4-4 before grabbing a commanding two-sets lead, letting out a roar after set point.
The third set was one-way traffic for Djokovic and he fired a forehand passing shot on match point to advance in one hour and 58 minutes. He finished the night with 31 winners to 29 unforced errors.