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US Open 2021: Novak Djokovic shifts up a gear and shrugs off heckler in disposing of Tallon Griekspoor

US Open 2021: Novak Djokovic shifts up a gear and shrugs off heckler in disposing of Tallon Griekspoor

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After a low-key start to his US Open quest, Novak Djokovic stepped up a gear to dispose of Tallon Griekspoor in straight sets.

There were concerns over Djokovic’s well-being and form on the back of his Olympic Games disappointment, and more questions than answers were forthcoming in his win over Holger Rune in the opening round.

The Serb, who is bidding for a calendar Grand Slam, put many of the questions to bed in his 6-2 6-3 6-2 success on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Djokovic acknowledged his first-round effort was below par, as he delivered a performance which suggested there is more left in the locker.

“I came out on the court with the right intensity and the right focus and it was definitely a better performance from my side than a couple nights ago,” Djokovic said.

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Griekspoor was comprehensively outclassed – which was understandable against a man chasing his 21st major title – and his one opening in the second set, after Djokovic coughed up a ropey service game, was ruthlessly shut down as the 34-year-old broke back immediately.

It was a notable effort from Djokovic to break back immediately, as he could have been thrown off track by a heckler – whom he acknowledged after the match.

“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. Before that, he would do it a few times. After that, again,” Djokovic said. “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.”

Novak Djokovic talks to the umpire, US Open, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, New York, September 02, 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

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Djokovic is never going to be loved by the crowd in New York, but he managed them well by not allowing Griekspoor a sniff of an upset.

Worryingly for Djokovic’s title rivals, he claims to be in tip-top shape and his biggest concern is managing the expectations of a calendar Grand Slam and overtaking Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the winning-most player in men’s major history.

“Physically I feel great,” Djokovic said. “I can go a couple of hours every day, I don’t mind being on the court for a long time, actually the longer the match goes, I feel I have more chances to win against anybody in best-of-five.

“It’s really more about handling everything that is happening off the court, really all the expectations. Just trying to take it moment by moment, and really stay in the present moment and get the most out of it.”

Standing between Djokovic and a place in the second week at Flushing Meadows is Kei Nishikori who beat Mackenzie McDonald in a five-set classic which lasted three minutes shy of four hours. The Japanese player has lost 17 of his 19 his meetings with the world number one.

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