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Novak Djokovic keeps focus despite noisy US Open fan, remains unbeaten in Slams this season

Novak Djokovic keeps focus despite noisy US Open fan, remains unbeaten in Slams this season

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NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic missed an overhead along the way to getting broken for the only time Thursday night and stared at a man in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands who made noise during the point.

After breaking right back in the next game of his second-round victory at the US Open, Djokovic glared in that direction again, as if to say, “How you like me now?” Miffed as the distractions persisted, he later spoke to the chair umpire about what’s considered a no-no in tennis.

That, then, is pretty much what provided some intrigue and interest in this one, because the ultimate outcome — a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory for Djokovic over Tallon Griekspoor — seemed fairly obvious after all of about 15 minutes. Or maybe even before the No. 1-ranked Djokovic and his 121st-ranked opponent stepped on court on a cool, breezy evening.

“That guy, for some reason, was calling, raising the sound and kind of screaming just before I would hit my smash, which was a big point,” Djokovic said. “Before that, he would do it a few times. After that, again. That wasn’t nice. That’s all. I don’t mind the noise. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important for the entertainment, for the crowds, the music. I get it. But if someone does it over and over again … he knows why he’s doing it. The guy that I pointed out, he knew exactly what he was doing, and that’s all.”

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If that bothered Djokovic, his shot-making and serving boosted his mood as he took another step toward completing the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969 and claiming a 21st major championship to eclipse the mark he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“All in all very good, very good. I’m very pleased with the level of my tennis,” Djokovic said. “All is going in the right direction.”

He considered this a better performance than in his win Tuesday, when he dropped a set and was taken aback by hearing what he thought were boos but actually were last-name chants of “Ruuuuune!” for his 18-year-old foe, Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune.

Here’s what matters the most: Djokovic is 2-0 at Flushing Meadows this week and 23-0 in Grand Slam tournaments this year, with five more wins standing between him and history.

“I am motivated as ever to do well,” said Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia who will face 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori next. “I am trying to be the best I can be every single day and let’s see what happens.”

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Djokovic has won their past 16 matchups, including at the Tokyo Olympics in July, although Nishikori’s last head-to-head victory came in New York seven years ago.

This was only the fourth Slam match for Griekspoor, a 25-year-old Dutchman who tends to appear on the lower-level ATP Challenger Tour. And he never really stood much of a chance against Djokovic, who broke to lead 3-1 and was on his way.

“There’s a reason he’s the best of all time, probably,” Griekspoor said. “Just, every ball comes back. You hit a great serve, the ball’s back on your feet. There’s just not one shot that you can go at that he’s not so good at. He’s everywhere.”

Djokovic dominated every statistical category. He served well, to the tune of 13 aces. He serve-and-volleyed occasionally. He returned well enough to win half of Griekspoor’s service games. He dominated baseline exchanges.

Maybe that’s why ESPN’s telecast cut away in the third set.

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Among the men’s winners were Summer Games gold medalist and 2020 US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev, 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, No. 17 Gael Monfils and No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the U.S. But No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, a Wimbledon semifinalist, lost to Andreas Seppi of Italy, and No. 31 Alexander Bublik was beaten by American wild-card recipient Jack Sock 7-6 (3), 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Another U.S. man who got a wild card, 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby, won an all-Californian matchup against Taylor Fritz 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10), 7-5, 6-2.

The top players weren’t the only ones who enjoyed a successful Round 2. Five qualifiers — Oscar Otte, Peter Gojowczyk, Henri Laaksonen, Alex Molcan and Botic van de Zandschulp — reached the third round of the US Open for the first time since 1984. It’s the most qualifiers to reach any Grand Slam third round since the 2011 French Open had six.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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