Novak Djokovic got his campaign to win a fourth US Open, and 18th grand slam title overall, off to a flying start by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the second round, where he will meet Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Djokovic broke Dzumhur’s serve for a seventh time to seal the win in the first night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium court, which, due to Covid-19, was missing the thousands of rowdy New York tennis fans that usually flock to Queens every year.
Dzumhur, who hails from Bosnia and Herzegovina, had no answer to the world No1’s blistering serve and stout defence in a match that lasted just under two hours. The 28-year-old did not make it easy on himself, committing 41 unforced errors and eight double faults to fall to 0-3 lifetime against Djokovic.
With the win the Serbian, who won his fourth title of the year at the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, improved to 24-0 on the season.
Afterwards Djokovic said: “Do I want to keep the streak going? Of course I do. But am I thinking about it as a priority every single day? No. But it’s there, it’s an additional motivation for me and it fuels me to play even stronger and even better and play to the right intensity in every match.”
Having familiarised himself with Flushing Meadows’ unusually quiet environment during his victory in the Western & Southern Open last week, Djokovic evidently did not lack for motivation in the way he set about his task.
And despite some moments of frustration, the Serb will have been satisfied with another valuable workout as he gives chase for what would be an 18th grand slam title, and a fourth at Flushing Meadows alone.
“The intensity was there, definitely,” said Djokovic. “I played really well in the first set, but in the second I lost my focus and kind of got stressed out a couple of times and screamed, so that’s obviously still there despite the empty stadium.
“But this is what I bring to the court, I bring a lot of intensity and energy and sometimes my reactions are not always positive but I try to bounce back.”
Next up for Djokovic is a second-round meeting with Briton Edmund, who defeated Alexander Bublik in four sets earlier in the day. Edmund immediately set his sights on Djokovic, whom he beat in three sets at the 2018 Madrid Open, sayinbg: “It’s a match for me that I’ve got nothing to lose.
“I have the experience of beating him but he has also beaten me a bunch of times. He’s a top player and the type of player who is tough to break down.”
The British No2 dropped the first set and was also on the verge of losing the third as Bublik served to go back in front. But Edmund rallied, breaking Bublik then reeling off eight more games in succession to wrap up an ultimately convincing 2-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-0 success.
Reflecting on his sluggish start, Edmund told Amazon Prime: “It could only get better really. There wasn’t anything I did right and I was annoyed – I needed to force myself to get going.”
With the two other members of the sport’s Big Three – Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal – not playing at the tournament, Djokovic is a heavy favourite to hoist the trophy and pull within one grand slam title of Nadal (19) and two of Federer (20).