Novak's Night: Djokovic Dispatches Gasquet
Novak Djokovic walked onto the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday evening having won his past 10 third-round clashes at the US Open. And it was clear from the get-go that streak would not be coming to an end.
The two-time US Open champion cruised past No. 26 seed Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round in Flushing Meadows for his 11th consecutive appearance. In each of those tournaments, Djokovic has advanced to at least the semi-finals.
"It was the best match of the week so far, without a doubt. One of the best performances I had in the hard-court season after Wimbledon. It came at the right time because Gasquet is a tricky player, someone that has plenty of experience, someone that I know very well," Djokovic said. "Obviously he showcased today why he has one of the best backhands, one-handed backhands, in the game... He was playing well. I thought I was playing on a very high level from the first point. Very, very pleased with the performance."
It is the continuation of a tremendous stretch for the Monte-Carlo resident. After beginning the 2018 campaign 6-6 as he recovered from a right elbow injury — which forced him to undergo a procedure after the Australian Open — the Serbian has tallied a 30-4 record. Perhaps the main highlights of that run came at Wimbledon, where he earned his fourth title, and at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, where the 31-year-old completed his Career Golden Masters, winning the only ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event missing from his resumé.
If Djokovic is going to stumble ahead of a potential quarter-final clash in New York against No. 2 seed Roger Federer, he certainly has not shown any signs. The World No. 6 dropped a set in each of his first two matches against Marton Fucsovics and Tennys Sandgren, but he has yet to truly find himself in trouble.
And his best performance of the tournament thus far came against Gasquet. Djokovic was ruthless from the baseline, hitting high, heavy balls — especially off the forehand wing — to keep the 2013 semi-finalist well behind the baseline throughout. From there, Djokovic did a good job of maintaining variety, from hammering away until Gasquet could no longer adequately defend to using his drop shot here and there.
Djokovic saved all five break points he faced in the match, including three in the third set, to take a 13-1 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Gasquet. The No. 6 seed has not dropped a set in 10 of their past 11 meetings.
He advanced after two hours and 11 minutes, setting a fourth-round class against Portuguese No. 1 Joao Sousa, who upset No. 17 seed Lucas Pouille 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(5). Sousa triumphed on home soil earlier this season at the Millennium Estoril Open. Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 4-0, winning each of their sets by a margin of 6-4 or greater.
"He deserves a credit for reaching first time last 16 in a Slam. He doesn't have anything to lose. He's a fighter. He grinds. He doesn't give you too many free points. He makes you run. He loves to run. Loves to run around his backhand, hit some forehands. Plays pretty flat," Djokovic said. "I haven't played him for a while. Anyway, look, I know that I'm the clear favourite in the match. At the same time I will try to maintain the level of focus and performance and level of tennis that I've had today. If it's like that, then I have a good chance to win."
In their first clash, five years ago here in New York, Djokovic lost just four games en route to a 100-minute triumph. But Sousa has found great form at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Despite arriving at the tournament on a seven-match losing streak, the World No. 68 also battled past Spaniards Marcel Granollers and 2017 semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.