Novak Djokovic continues to impress on his return to the US Open, breezing past Spain’s Bernabé Zapata Miralles in straight sets to reach the third round.
The Serbian is looking to add to his record tally of 23 men’s grand slam titles and the ease of the 6-4 6-1 6-1 win would suggest that winning the tournament is a real possibility.
Zapata Miralles put up a fight during the first set, but Djokovic’s class showed throughout the remainder of the matchup.
“It has been a tough match, especially in the first set with the conditions,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview after the match.
“I think after that when we had the entire court in the shadow it was a bit easier, but still a lot of humidity and on the court you could feel it more because of the hardcourt, the heat is absorbed in the surface.”
Despite the straight sets win, the world No. 2 still believes there was room for improvement in his performance, particularly during that difficult first set.
“You just have to accept it, embrace it, try to make the most out of it. I didn’t start off the match very well but second and third set have been at least a couple of levels higher than the first, so I’m very pleased with the way I ended the match,” he said.
Djokovic was dominant throughout the second and third sets and was simply too good for his opponent, ranked No. 76 in the world.
The Serbian has won the US Open on three occasions but says he still maintains the same hunger for the tournament that he has always had, citing the New York crowd as one of the main factors.
“I’m happy to be back in New York, I’m happy to be playing here in Arthur Ashe in front of you guys,” Djokovic added postgame.
“That’s what gives me strength, that’s what gives me motivation at 36 years of age and after 20 years of coming to New York. I still have the hunger, I still have the desire to play my best tennis on this court.”
Djokovic arrived at Flushing Meadows on good form after a win at the Western & Southern Open championship earlier this month – his first tournament on US soil since 2021 due to his unvaccinated status.
The 36-year-old will take on fellow countryman Laslo Djere in the third round. Djere beat French player Hugo Gaston in straight sets during the second round.
Elsewhere, there was an early upset with Stefanos Tsitsipas falling to a five-set defeat against Dominic Stricker in the second round.
Tsitsipas is ranked No. 7 in the world but was in a battle from the off against Stricker, ranked No. 128.
Stricker, making his US Open debut, eventually took the win 7-5 6-7 6-7 7-6 6-3 after a mammoth four hour and four minute-long match to reach the third round of a grand slam for the first time.
“Such a great day for me, such a great win,” Stricker said after the match, per Reuters. “It gives me a lot of confidence and I think it is great to see from my team. We are working hard every day and it is so great to do that.”