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U.S. Open updates: Novak Djokovic rallies to defeat Kei Nishikori

Novak Djokovic reacts after scoring a point against Kei Nishikori.
Novak Djokovic reacts after scoring a point against Kei Nishikori during their third-round match at the U.S. Open on Saturday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic overcame losing the tiebreaker of his first set against Kei Nishikori to rebound for a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory on Saturday and advance to the men’s fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Djokovic has beaten Nishikori 17 straight times and 18 times in their 20 head-to-head matchups. But Nishikori put up a strong fight in the first set and took Djokovic through many long and entertaining rallies. Djokovic let loose a primal scream-like roar and beat his chest with his fist after he won the third set, winning applause from a crowd that favored underdog Nishikori but appreciated Djokovic’s great skills.

Djokovic kept alive his quest to complete a calendar Grand Slam — winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same year— and to win his 21st Grand Slam singles title, which would break his tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Slam singles title won by a male player.

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“I was quite passive,” Djokovic said of his start against Nishikori. “I was too far back in the court. He was dictating the play. It took me a little bit of time to adjust to his game.”

Frances Tiafoe upsets Andrey Rublev

Frances Tiafoe returns a shot during his victory over Andrey Rublev at the U.S. Open on Saturday.
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

Working late didn’t bother Frances Tiafoe, who upset No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev in a 3-hour, 46-minute match that began on Friday and ended at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time Saturday. That was tied for the fifth-latest finish in U.S. Open history.

Tiafoe, who grew up playing at the Maryland tennis center where his father was the head of maintenance, served five of his 24 aces in the final set of his 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-1 victory over Rublev. He Tiafoe also hit 15 winners in the fifth set, compared with four by Rublev.

Tiafoe, ranked 50th in the world, advanced to the fourth round for the second straight year. “I love these matches. This is why you work,” he said during an on-court interview after the match. “This is why you put the time in, to play the best guys in the world. These are the matches I get up for. I want [to beat] these guys. I want to put it on my resume.”

He credited the lively crowd that remained at Arthur Ashe Stadium for giving him strength. “You guys are the reason I got it done tonight. It was definitely tricky,” he said. “You guys stuck with me all the way through … you did it.”

Naomi Osaka lost to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the U.S. Open, then said she needs another break from tennis to deal with mental health issues.

Not so many hours after Tiafoe’s match ended, No. 6 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada got Saturday’s program started with a near-flawless 6-1, 6-2 victory over Greet Minnen of Belgium at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Andreescu has been slowed by injuries since she won the 2019 U.S. Open women’s title but has looked solid here. “I think I played really well today. It’s what I’ve been working towards,” she said. “To get it done in two, probably one of my best matches.”

Andreescu’s fourth-round opponent will be No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, who upset No. 10 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-3. “Petra is one of the toughest players on the tour. She’s a great champion,” Sakkari said. “Playing in front of this crowd was incredible.”

Youth movement

Yet another 18-year-old upstart moved on to the fourth round.

Emma Raducanu of Britain romped to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain on Saturday at Court 17, continuing a trend toward younger players serving notice that they can play with their older and more experienced rivals.

She followed the examples set on Friday by 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who upset No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets in men’s singles, and 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada, who overcame defending women’s champion and No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka in three sets.

Raducanu, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon this year, was born in Canada but moved to England at age 2. She had to go through qualifying to earn a berth in the Open and she hasn’t lost a set here yet. Her next opponent will be the winner of Saturday night’s match between No. 1 Ash Barty of Australia and American Shelby Rogers.


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