Novak Djokovic explains ‘surprise’ after battling past Kei Nishikori at US Open

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Novak Djokovic has revealed he was taken aback by Kei Nishikori during the early stages of their US Open showdown on Saturday night. The Serb was taken to four sets by his Japanese opponent. But he ended up prevailing to boost his chances of winning a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title.

Djokovic went into the game against Nishikori having beaten Holger Rune and Tallon Griekspoor so far.

And things got off to a difficult start, with the 34-year-old losing the first set 6-7 after being beaten on a tiebreak.

However, Djokovic then rallied to win the next three sets and make the fourth round of the competition in the process.

It was a testing night at times for the Serb, who had to be at the peak of his powers to emerge from the contest unscathed.

And, speaking afterwards, the 20-time Grand Slam winner admitted he was surprised by the way Nishikori started the match.

“I don’t think I started off very well but he surprised me with his level today,” Djokovic said.

“It took me a little bit of time to adjust to his game.”

Djokovic also criticised his own performance, admitting he was ‘quite passive’.

“I was quite passive,” he admitted.

“I was too far back in the court. He was dictating the play. I was still trying to find the rhythm, find the tempo.

“Obviously he played much quicker and more aggressive than my opponents in the opening rounds did.”

Djokovic is now fancying his chances of winning a fourth Grand Slam of the year, having already claimed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.

“After I won in Paris this year, I felt like, ‘OK, I like my chances on grass, I won two Wimbledons in a row, I’ve improved over the years on grass – it did not seem impossible anymore to go for all four in a row in the same year,” he said.

“So here I am. I’m in a good position to do that. Still in the tournament.

“But I’ve got to take one match at a time.

“Probably the greatest Grand Slam career satisfaction I had is when I won four in a row back in 2016 when I crowned it with the first Roland Garros trophy.

“Even though I grew up playing on clay, I feel like Roland Garros has always been probably the Mount Everest for me. Out of all four Slams, that was the toughest for me to win.

“Both 2016 and this year’s win on French Open feel kind of similar. I felt if I win Roland Garros in that year, I have a good chance to maybe do it all in same year, calendar Slam.”

Speaking before the win, meanwhile, Djokovic had opened up on the absences of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the US Open this year.

“Of course, the absence of Serena, Rafa, Roger, Dominic, of course, Venus, is affecting, no doubt about it,” he said.

“But we are here. I feel also the players who are here, along with me on the men’s side, deserve the credit. They’re the next generation.

“We need to do more promotion of their own stories, their own brands.

“I know that people like to see the three of us on the men’s side, of course Serena, Williams sisters, Naomi, probably some big stars on the women’s side.”

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