NEW YORK (AFP) – World No. 1 Novak Djokovic moved five matches from completing the first men’s singles calendar-year Grand Slam in 52 years by advancing to the third round of the US Open on Friday.
The 34-year-old Serbian cruised past 121st-ranked Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, at Arthur Ashe Stadium to book a third-round date with 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori of Japan.
”I’m as motivated as ever to do well,” Djokovic said. ”I’m not the only player that wants to go deep in the tournament and put his hands on the trophy. I’m trying to be my best every day and let’s see what happens.”
Djokovic, chasing the first men’s singles calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969, said the mental challenge was tougher than the physical one at this stage.
”Probably it’s more mental and emotional, really,” Djokovic said. ”I don’t mind being on the court a long time. I feel I have more chances in a best-of-five.
A fourth US Open crown would bring Djokovic his 21st career Grand Slam crown, giving him the men’s all-time record, one more than the mark he now shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent with injuries.
Nishikori made himself an obstacle in Djokovic’s path to history by outlasting American Mackenzie McDonald, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 2-6, 6-3, avenging a loss in last month’s Washington semifinals.
With abandoned cars scattered across streets near the National Tennis Center and many highways shut down, fewer spectators than normal saw Tokyo Olympic champion Alexander Zverev and top-ranked Ashleigh Barty roll into the third round.
Australian Barty dispatch Danish teen Clara Tauson 6-1, 7-5 and German fourth seed Zverev rip 33rd-ranked Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.
Reigning Wimbledon champion Barty, seeking her third Grand Slam title, next plays American Shelby Rogers as she chases a sixth trophy of the year and first US Open quarter-finals spot.
Zverev, last year’s US Open runner-up and a champion two weeks ago at Cincinnati, took only 74 minutes to advance.
German Oscar Otte, ranked 144th, became the fifth men’s qualifier to reach the third round by defeating 92nd-ranked American Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
There haven’t been so many qualifiers so deep at any Slam since six at the 2011 French Open and not at the US Open since five made it in 1984.