Novak Djokovic won his 22nd grand slam match of 2021 on Day Two of the US Open, surviving a brief scare to beat Danish teenager Holger Rune in four sets.
The match featured a raucous atmosphere, with Rune’s thrilling form earning him the support of much of the crowd at Flushing Meadows.
But Djokovic, who later admitted that he mistook the chants of ‘Ruuune’ for boos, blocked out the noise and responded to losing the second set tie-break to run out a 6-1 6-7 6-2 6-1 winner and seal his spot in the second round.
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“I didn’t know what they were chanting honestly, I thought they were booing,” Djokovic said after the match.
“It was not an ideal atmosphere for me. But I’ve been in these particular atmospheres before, so I knew how to handle it.”
The world number one raised his game at the start of the third set and took full advantage when his opponent was forced to call for the trainer at 3-1 down in the third after suffering cramp, upping his level even further to race to an ultimately comfortable victory with the loss of just two further games.
Rune’s performance, which saw him carry impressive form from winning two Challenger Tour titles this summer into the US Open, hinted at better things to come in the youngster’s career.
And the 18-year-old said that he took encouragement from the display, despite his body letting him down in the end, and felt confident he could have pushed Djokovic harder had cramp not set in.
“Unfortunately my fitness let me down,” Rune said. “I started cramping already in the beginning of the third set. From there on was tough.
“I knew if I had to win, I really had to fight for every point. With my body at this point, it was impossible.
I’m not saying if I was physically 100% I would beat him for sure, but I would definitely have a chance.
The win keeps Djokovic on-track to become the first male tennis player to win all four tennis Grand Slams in a calendar year since Rod Laver in 1969.
And victory for the Serbian in New York would also see him become the most decorated men’s singles player in the history of the sport, with the 34-year-old currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 career Grand Slam titles.
Pablo Carreno Busta
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Elsewhere on day two, Pablo Carreno Busta suffered a shock five-set defeat to American qualifier Maxime Cressy in the first round of the US Open after blowing four match points in the final set.
Carreno Busta, who made the semi-finals at the US Open in 2017 and 2020, looked to be cruising after winning the opening two sets.
But Cressy fought back to level the match and take it to a tiebreak in the fifth set. Carreno Busta had four chances to clinch the match but couldn't take them, double-faulting on his third match point before Cressy won 5-7 4-6 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(7).
Hubert Hurkacz dropped just 12 points on serve as he beat Egor Gerasimov in straight sets.
The 10th seed, who beat Roger Federer in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, hit 38 winners as he progressed with a 6-3 6-4 6-3 win.
Former finalist Kei Nishikori beat Salvatore Caruso in four sets.
Nishikori, 31, lost in the 2014 final to Marin Cilic and also made the semi-finals in New York in 2016 and 2018. He looked to be cruising against Caruso but in the end came through 6-1 6-1 5-7 6-3.
Another upset on the second day saw 25th seed Karen Khachanov lose in five sets to Lloyd Harris.
Olympic silver medallist Khachanov looked to be struggling with an injury towards the end of the match as Harris won 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Denis Shapovalov, who made the quarter-finals last year, beat Federico Delbonis 6-2 6-2 6-3 while sixth seed Matteo Berrettini won 7-6(5) 7-6(7) 6-3 against Jeremy Chardy.
Aslan Karatsev powered past Jaume Munar 7-5 1-6 6-3 6-2 with the help of 57 winners but young American Sebastian Korda withdrew due to illness down 6-2 2-1 against Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Mackenzie McDonald won 6-2 7-5 6-3 against out-of-form David Goffin, who has now lost his last six matches in a row. Jannik Sinner, the 13th seed, beat Max Purcell in four sets.
Ernesto Escobedo beat Pablo Cuevas 6-1 6-3 6-1 while big-serving American Reilly Opelka won in straight sets against Soon-Woo Kwon.
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