It was anything but a no-sweat win for Novak Djokovic, the U.S. Open’s No. 1 seed and the world’s No. 1-ranked player.
Britain’s Kyle Edmund, perspiring so much it seemed to rain from his shorts, managed to win the first set in a tiebreak and give Djokovic enough fits here and there to extend the match to three hours and 14 minutes.
But once Djokovic got the timing down on Edmund’s serve and the angles right on Edmund’s forehand, he pulled out a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory in the second round on Wednesday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The National Weather Service was reporting in midafternoon that the New York City temperature was 82 and the humidity was 86% on the cloudy, sticky day.
Edmund seemed to be wicking the moisture right out of the air and depositing it in droplets, especially around the baseline. The ballpersons, who are not allowed to handle player towels because of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead dipped into the towel supply to mop up the court.
“I think the mindset approaching Grand Slams is different from any other tournament.” Djokovic said. “For me, I actually like my chances the longer the match goes, especially with someone like Kyle that spends a lot of energy.”
Edmund won the New York Open at Nassau Coliseum in February, jump starting a career that looked so promising after reaching the Australian Open semifinal in 2018, winning a tournament and climbing to No. 14 in the world. A left knee injury early in 2019 derailed him, the New York Open got him back on track, then coronavirus came along.
“He's playing some powerful tennis, serve and forehand, but doesn't move that well for a long time,” Djokovic said. “I knew that eventually physically he's going to drop his level a bit. That's when I stepped it up. I held my nerves and stayed consistent.”
Djokovic remains undefeated in 2020, running his winning streak to 25. He won the Australian Open at the start of the year, his 17th Grand Slam victory, and last week won the Western & Southern Open, a tournament normally played in Cincinnati but moved to the National Tennis Center by the USTA, which owns it.
“I thought there's a lot of positives in the last couple weeks,” Djokovic said. “Had plenty of match play on the court. I competed great, especially in the last couple of matches during the Cincinnati tournament. Those were very important wins I think mentally for me coming into U.S. Open.”
Notes & quotes: Noah Rubin of Rockville Centre and partner Ernesto Escobedo take on Denis Shapovalov and Rohan Bopanna in a first-round men’s doubles match on Thursday. Rubin got a wild card into the doubles competition. He has twice before played in the singles draw, losing in the first round . . . No. 30 seed Kristina Mladenovic served for the win while leading Varvara Gracheva 6-1, 5-1 and lost. Mladenovic failed to convert four match points and Gracheva won, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-0. Mladenovic is one of the players who had been in close contact with Benoit Paire, the French player who tested positive for the coronavirus. Mladenovic had to further isolate herself and she blamed the loss in part on the stress of the situation. Kristen Flipkens of Belgium was also in that dilemma, but did not blame it for her three-set loss to American Jessica Pegula.