Music in the previous minutes. From there, silence and the applause of the fancam virtual. That was the accompaniment with which Novak Djokovic counted in the first night game of the Us Open 2020. His duel before Damir Dzumhur He would not have the world’s most electric stadium in the Arthur Ashe when night begins to fall, but the objective should not change a single iota: win, convince and save gas after playing several games in a row the previous week in Cincinnati.

The first game was a statement of intents on the Bosnian’s side: despite their friendship off the track, the duel was not going to be a ride for number one. He generated a break ball, but Novak solved it with a successful serve and volley. And when you miss your first chance and your serve is very weak, you know what comes next. Djokovic put pressure on the rest from the first game, certified the break in his first opportunity and put cruising speed, with direct actions to videos of highlights (including a right to boat soon to spectacular mid-track).

The impression that the Serbian gave was that of wanting minimal wear. Solid and constant at service, maintaining a speed close to his best levels: aggressive from the first blow, especially with the right. The predilection for seeking to shorten the points as much as possible caused Damir, a diesel guy who requires a lot of pace to enter the games, did not know where to approach the Serbian. 6-1 in 23 minutes: probably one of the fastest sets of his career.

The beginning of second set followed the same courses. Arrived at 6-1 and 2-1 in favor, Dzumhur had only been able to win a point with his second serve. One. But suddenly, the Bosnian, who had not found a way to score points, took a change of tactic winner. He decided to muddy the duel completely: almost all his setbacks became cut, throwing dead balls to the center of the court and cutting off Nole’s cruising rhythm. Damir’s cross was that he couldn’t convert the three break opportunities he had in the sixth game of the set, more to his rival’s merit than to his own demerit. The seventh, however, became eternal: more than ten minutes with all kinds of alternatives … which the Bosnian closed with an ace. He had left at Arthur Ashe.

However, Dzumhur’s successful and renewed game plan could not work miracles. For example, I could not hide the odd game with large gaps at the service typical of a guy who is not among the top hundred in the world. The 6-4 of the second set, yes, left a totally different feeling to the first set: Novak spluttered to himself, probably exasperated by his 15 unforced errors and the feeling that his opponent had multiple opportunities to break his game.

The third set had a single word written on it: Procedure. Little tennis would be played: if before Dzumhur tried to slow down the game to the maximum, the Bosnian was drowned and the match became a circus spectacle of dropouts, passing shots, rises to the net and shots not always well executed. Plagued by abdominal problems, Damir threw in the towel and Novak completed the task in a placid third set.

The 6-1, 6-4 and 6-1 by the Serbian mark a start to three stages: a first set where Novak went into a catatonic state and all his shots seemed remote-controlled, a second of a small downturn where he had to be totally concentrated to cope with a new style of play, and a third where he didn’t have to try too hard. And the most important: no trace of neck discomfort. In less than two hours, the Serbian is already in the second round. Kyle Edmund waits there.


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