Novak Djokovic stayed on path to achieve an incredible calendar year Grand Slam despite experiencing some nervy moments in his first round clash at US Open. The Serbian World No.1 lost the second set, but came back strongly to win the remaining sets against Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune to reach the second round. Djokovic won the match 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1 in two hours and 15 minutes in front of a raucous Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd. It is to be noted that the Danish teen had suffered from cramps in the final two sets. “It’s tough to talk about [the] third and fourth sets because he barely moved,” Djokovic said.
“[From] my side, I started great. Played a really, really good first set. After that, I don’t know, I was 4-3 serving in the second set. Everything was working well, but then I just lost the first serve. Credit to him for fighting. He had the crowd behind him. It was tough to play in my first match, even though I had tonnes of experience playing on this court, for him it was the first one. Still, you get nerves. You still are feeling a little bit rusty at the beginning. Obviously I’m pleased with the way I finished the match. Again, it was not a fair battle on the court with his unfortunate injury and cramping.”
The Serbian World No.1 is just six matches away from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to bag all four major titles in one season. The three-time US Open champion will next face Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.
Entering the match, 18-year-old Rune had told ATPTour.com that, “I have a lot of belief in myself even though I’m up against the World No. 1.” The Danish teen’s confidence was clearly visible, particularly in the second set after he won a tense tie-break. But, he was not able to sustain the aggressive momentum for long. Rune was visited by the trainer on multiple occasions in the final two sets to receive treatment on his upper legs for apparent cramping.
“Unfortunately, my fitness let me down. I started cramping already in the beginning of the third set. From there on, it was tough,” Rune said. “I knew if I [wanted] to win, I really had to fight for every point. With my body at this point, it was impossible.”
Novak Djokovic, the 20-time major winner, can surpass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most Slam titles with the US Open crown. He stayed in the hunt with a 4-set victory in the first round. After match point, Djokovic had a lengthy exchange with Rune at the net to give him encouragement.
“I just told him that he handled himself extremely well. He didn’t want to stop,” Novak Djokovic said. “I thought he was going to stop [at] the end of the third. He just kept going with dignity, finished off the match. He deserved definitely my respect, the respect of a lot of people. He’s still very, very young, 18 years old. He’s got plenty of time ahead of him. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of him in the future.”
Despite the defeat, Rune was happy with the support he got from the crowd. “I never felt anything like this. It was [an] unbelievable feeling staying there. I tried to give the crowd something, fight for every point, be pumped and everything,” Rune said. “The crowd was unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for more. I never tried anything like this. It was a pretty sick feeling.”