Nate Chura is senior tennis pro at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn and covers the U.S. Open for WNYC.
On Day 8 of the U.S. Open, Serbian Novak Djokovic filleted resurgent American Mardy Fish in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. All in all, it took the Serb a mere hour and 50 minutes to cook the 19th seed and advance to the quarterfinals.
“I played a great match today,” Djokovic said. “Conditions were tough, as well, with a strong wind. I was using my serve in important moments extremely well and opening the court and, kind of, not giving him enough chances to come to the net and be aggressive.”
From the very first point, Djokovic put Fish on the defensive, muscling the slimmer, 6’2” American frame from sideline to sideline. Fish had his chances in the second set. On two occasions he had opportunities to inflict damage to the Djokovic serve. At one point, Fish actually held triple break points. Sadly for U.S. tennis fans, he let the Serb off the hook.
“I felt so many times today, like even off my first serves, I was sort of fighting to neutralize the point,” said Fish about his struggles. “I was on my back foot quite a bit, even when I was with the wind.”
Fish now joins the ranks of fellow routed countrymen Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner. The sole American remaining in the men’s draw is Sam Querrey. He’ll play Andy Murray’s vanquisher, Swiss former-top-tenner Stanislas Wawrinka for a spot in the quarters tomorrow.
Though Fish was certainly disappointed to see his hot streak come to an end, he was happy with the result and even inspired by his peers. And he’s not about to throw in the towel.
“I'd love to make it into the top 10,” said Fish. “You saw someone like Stan Wawrinka yesterday beat Murray. He's had a run, and people have put together runs like that. I've certainly put myself in a great position. I got 1400 points or so in just in the U.S. summer. So, I mean, I've got a great opportunity. That would be a huge goal for me.”
Djokovic will next play French dynamo Gael Monfils for a spot in the semifinals. Monfils beat his former Davis Cup teammate Richard Gasquet in their meeting this afternoon on Louis Armstrong Stadium. The score was 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.
One of the reasons oddsmakers haven’t considered Djokovic as a viable contender for the slams the past few years, in part, has to do with his perceived frailties. He has a history of shortness of breath, especially under taxing, physical conditions. But according to the Serb, he’s ‘A Okay’ in New York.
“Periodically, it comes in the year,” Djokovic said about his purported breathing difficulties. “I guess in the spring I had a lot of allergy trouble. But right now I'm feeling quite good.”
Whether he can hang on the court with the top two players in the world remains to be seen.
Also moving through the men’s field to today was 5th-seed Robin Soderling. He defeated Albert Montanes of Spain comfortably after losing the first set, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.