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Djokovic survives Nishikori test to take a step closer to calendar-year Grand Slam
The world No 1 dug deep when he needed to as he saw off a valiant Nishikori to reach the last 16 at the US Open
NOVAK DJOKOVIC BEAT KEI NISHIKORI 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
- What happened: World No 1 Novak Djokovic sees off Kei Nishikori after a testing four-set battle
- You will also learn: Djokovic is now four wins away from the calendar-year Grand Slam
- Why you should read this: The Serb will face American Jenson Brooksby in the last 16
The quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam – and a record 21st slam title – remains on for Novak Djokovic but he was made to work harder than he might have liked before getting past Kei Nishikori in the third round on Saturday.
The Serb dropped a set for the second time in three matches and was pushed hard by Nishikori but he is safely through, his 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win sending him into the last 16 for the 15th time in a row.
“Big credit to Kei, he played on a really, really high level today,” Djokovic said. “I know how good he is but he did surprise me with his level today, it was tough. I felt like all the sets were quite close, few points decided the winner today.
“I don’t think I started very well, I was too passive, too far back in the court. It took me a little bit of time to adjust to his game. I was very pleased with the focus. Maybe at some points I wasn’t at my best but overall I was determined and concentrated and that’s what matters in the end.”
Defiant Nishikori starts strong
With a 17-2 lead over Nishikori in their head to head battles and having won their last 16 in a row, Djokovic must have gone into the contest full of confidence.
But the Serb is chasing history in New York and the pressure of that kind of thing can weigh heavily on a player’s shoulders. His backhand was a little off in the first set and Nishikori took advantage. The pair traded breaks but Nishikori played a good tiebreak to move ahead.
Djokovic finds his groove, takes control
The world No 1 needed to dig deep and so he did. The two players traded gruelling baseline rallies, backhand to backhand, testing each other again and again, finding the opening and then threading the needle, every time.
Djokovic snatched the break in the third game of the second set, settling any nerves he may have been feeling. But though the top seed took the second set, Nishikori was not going away quietly, retrieving a break early in the third set as he asked more questions of Djokovic’s mind and body. But Djokovic is on a mission and it’s going to take an awful lot to knock him off his pedestal.
Nishikori saved a break point in the first game of the fourth set but Djokovic forced three more in the fifth game and took the third of them to move ahead and he never looked back, serving out for victory and a place in the last 16 yet again.
He will take on American Jenson Brooksby, who upset 21st seed Aslan Karatsev 6-2, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, in the fourth round on Monday.
The dream is alive and well.