Novak Djokovic has survived a massive scare to keep his quest for history alive at the US Open, after a stirring come-from-behind win against compatriot Laslo Djere. The three-time US Open champion was forced to come from two sets to love down against his fellow Serb, but prevailed 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in an absorbing battle inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Djokovic's quest for a record-equalling 24th grand slam title hit an early roadblock, with the Serbian tennis star dropping the first two sets against Djere. The 36-year-old - who will return to World No.1 at the conclusion of the tournament - was a massive favourite against his fellow countryman in New York.
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The Serb is gunning for a 24th career grand slam singles title at Flushing Meadows - a feat that would see him equal Aussie tennis great Margaret Court's all-time record. However, Djere had other ideas during the opening two sets against Djokovic as he turned the form guide upside down in a stunning display.
The World No.38 broke Djokovic's serve in just the second game of the match, with his attacking play from the baseline, powerful serve and massive groundstrokes causing the three-time US Open champion all sorts of problems. Djere capitalised on the early break to take the opening stanza 6-4, before keeping up the momentum in the second.
How the second set ended 👇
Put another log on the fire. pic.twitter.com/OfBMdTYXS4
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 2, 2023
Djokovic was clearly short of his best against his fellow Serb and Djere took full advantage to leave the Centre Court crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium shocked. Djere managed to save numerous break points against him, often dictating the baseline rallies against his illustrious rival.
Fans in disbelief over shock Novak Djokovic scenes
In the seventh game of the second set, Djere grabbed another crucial break on the second of three opportunities he set up on Djokovic's serve. The 28-year-old - playing in the third round of a grand slam for the first time in his career - held his next two service games to take a shock two-sets-to-love lead in scenes described by Djokovic's fans as "baffling".
— ULTM8SerenaWilliamsf (@ultm8swfans) September 2, 2023
Djere Is playing the best performance vs Djokovic that I’ve seen this year, after Alcaraz one.
Nole Has no answer#usopen
— Jmarco! (@Jmarco1x) September 2, 2023
— elavasam (@elavasam) September 2, 2023
Novak Djokovic launches extraordinary comeback
Djokovic famously came from two sets to love down in the 2022 Wimbledon semi-final against Jannik Sinner en route to last year's title. In a ruthless display of his fighting qualities, the 23-time major winner romped through the fourth set 6-1 to signal his intentions and throw the pressure right back onto the shoulders of his compatriot.
Playing with a renewed intensity and sense of purpose, Djokovic produced another crucial break early in the fourth set. Djere then handed Djokovic the chance to grab another after a shocking mishit on an easy volley and the 36-year-old accepted the gift before sending the match into a deciding fifth set.
The confidence and consistency that Djere showcased earlier in the match had been replaced with sloppy errors and indecisiveness as Djokovic found another gear. The second seed's pressure on Djere's increasingly fragile serve saw him break the 28-year-old at the first time of asking in the decider.
There was an air of inevitability when Djokovic broke Djere again and despite being made to serve it out for victory, the 36-year-old did so to take his place in the last-16.
Novak Djokovic is the Comeback King!
He never gives up, never surrenders.
In the end, he wins.
That is why is the greatest of all time. pic.twitter.com/2HyucMTEyI
— Danny 🐊 (@DjokovicFan_) September 2, 2023
Djokovic is ridiculous
— Non¢ents (@vegaschi2121) September 2, 2023
I reiterate Novak is the most mentally tough player of all time. Wrecking my nerves. 😮💨🎾 #USOpen
— SebastianChase7 (@RiverNoah7) September 2, 2023
I don’t care how many times I have seen Novak comeback from a two set deficit, I still nervous wreck it. You never know…but I never lose faith. #USOpen
— Miss Poe (@ShannonPoe) September 2, 2023
You would think the manner in which Novak won those last 3 sets shouldn’t affect him too much for the latter stages of the tournament. Nonetheless, a brilliant comeback and credit also to Laslo Djere displaying some phenomenal player. #USOpen
— Christian Montegan (@monte_sports) September 2, 2023
Aussie wildcard into fourth round at a grand slam for first time
In other men's action on Friday, Australian wildcard Rinky Hijikata made it through to the fourth round for the first time in his grand slam career after an impressive four-set win over China's Zhizhen Zhang. The 22-year-old Hijikata won 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-3 to vindicate the decision by Tennis Australia to grant him a wildcard to compete at the US Open and set up a showdown against local hope Frances Tiafoe in the last-16.
Tiafoe booked his spot in the fourth round with a 4-6 6-2 6-3 7-6 (8-6) winner against No.22 Adrian Mannarino of France. Switzerland's Dominic Stricker also went through by beating Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 2-6 7-5 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-2.
Also through is another American Tommy Paul, who slammed down 15 aces and got broken just once during a 6-1 6-0 3-6 6-3 win over No.21 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Paul's compatriot Ben Shelton also advanced after defeating Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-4 3-6 6-2 6-0 with the help of 26 aces.
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