Novak Djokovic moved into the third round of the US Open after a win against battling opponent Bernabe Zapata Miralles – and now he looks to have a clear path through to the final in New York.
Despite the one-sided final match that ended with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win for the tournament favourite, Zapata Miralles produced a battling performance and pushed Djokovic hard before the world No 1 pushed over the winning line.
“It has been a tough match, especially in the first set with the conditions,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview.
“A lot of humidity and on the court you can feel it more, the light screens as well, it gives you the full experience.
“You have to accept and embrace it. I didn’t start very well, but second and third set have been a couple of levels higher so I’m pleased to have finished off the match well.”
Djokovic just had too much class for his Spanish rival despite some brutal rallies and now it looks like the 23-time Grand Slam champion is on his way to another record-breaking milestone.
Holger Rune was one of the few players who could have troubled in the latter stages of the tournament, but he fell to a first round defeat after complaining about his match against Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.
As the No 2 seed, Djokovic is in the bottom half of the US Open draw and that section has now opened up in stunning fashion after more upsets on Wednesday.
Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime was a potential opponent for Djokovic in the last-16, but the No 15 seed crashed out in the opening round against America’s Mackenzie McDonald.
Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti, who was seeded at No 18, was also sent home in the first round when he lost to Frenchman Titouan Droguet.
Now the draw has opened up further for Djokovic, with Stefanos Tsitsipas crashing out after a five-set epic against Dominic Stricker.
The latest surprisingly early exit for Tsitsipas in New York means his potential quarter-final clash with Djokovic will never take place.
Serbia’s Laslo Djere will be next for Djokovic and while he will not be looking too far ahead into the second week of the US Open, his path to the final is clearing.
Djokovic’s notoriously vocal fans on social media were spouting bizarre conspiracy theories prior to the US Open draw suggesting their hero was set to be handed a tough task.
Yet it is top seed Carlos Alcaraz who has by far the toughest potential opponents, with Jannik Sinner, Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray, Hubert Hurkacz and Matteo Berrettini all in the top half of the US Open men’s singles draw.
Former British No 1 Tim Heman suggested Djokovic would be satisfied with his form as he looks at a draw that lacks the opposition capable of stopping him.
“He would have been looking at the bottom half of the draw and would be very happy with what lies ahead,” Henman told Sky Sports.
“He hits so hard, close to the line and that makes it difficult for his opponent to believe he can win.
“In best of five sets, it’s very hard to see Djokovic coming unstuck.”
The bookies will trim the odds on Djokovic once again after his latest masterclass and his 24th Grand Slam title will now be in his sights.
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