Racquet Reaction

U.S. Open: Djokovic d. Granollers

Tuesday, September 03, 2013 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

NEW YORK—Don't let the ripped physique and gluten-free diet fool you. Novak Djokovic may look fitter than an ironman triathlete, but he can binge with the best of them.

Djokovic gobbled up games with voracious desire and force-fed Marcel Granollers a day-long diet of misery. Delivering one of his finest U.S. Open serving performances, Djokovic opened the match winning 25 straight points on serve and closed it claiming 15 consecutive games in a 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 annihilation that was as aesthetically pleasing as it was brief.

The 2011 U.S. Open champion has not dropped a set in powering into his 18th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal and issued a master class of all-court tennis against a depleted opponent. Bursting out of the blocks quickly, Djokovic scored six straight love holds, won 13 of 15 second-serve points, and volleyed brilliantly in winning 28 of 30 trips to the net.

Stepping into the court, Djokovic drilled a forehand winner down the line for his fifth break point of the opening set, breaking for a 4-2 lead when Granollers netted a forehand off his back foot. That was the beginning of the end.

Tennis reinforces self-reliance. Granollers showed a strong stomach for the fight in grinding through three straight five-set wins, including successive 7-5 in-the-fifth victories over American opponents to reach the fourth round in Flushing Meadows for the first time. But the thrashing the Spaniard absorbed today was a reminder of just how humbling the game can be. Granollers had no legs, no energy and no shot of slowing the world No. 1.

Granollers is ranked No. 43 in the world, but Djokovic was operating in a different stratosphere today. When the Serbian slid a 106 M.P.H. ace down the middle to seize the first set in 35 minutes, it was clear the only option Granollers had in this match was to choose the method of demise. He could run from the blade or run into it, but either way he was going to get shredded by a razor-sharp opponent.

Sprinting five feet behind the baseline, Djokovic angled a clever backhand pass cross-court for break point and broke in the first game of the second set when the lanky Barcelona native shoveled a volley into net. After Djokovic used a slick forehand volley winner to break for a 5-0 lead, the crowd erupted in a roar as the image of Leonardo DiCaprio, accompanied by the theme from Titanic, blared from the big screen. Despite mass peer pressure from the fans, the actor never looked up in acknowledgement. Djokovic showed no such reluctance pleasing the crowd, firing a forehand winner cross-court to seize the second set in 23 minutes.

Players talk about visiting the zone Djokovic was in today. He permitted just six points in the third set and when Granollers finally gained his lone break point, the crowd could not muster much enthusiasm behind the sympathy cheer. Djokovic lofted a lob to close the 79-minute dissection.

The game's best returner has spoken of his desire to play more attacking tennis—asked after the third round the biggest challenge of improving his net game, Djokovic joked "to hit a volley winner"—and produced pure all-court brilliance today.

"I definitely played one of the best matches I've played in my entire life here in Arthur Ashe," Djokovic told ESPN's Brad Gilbert in his on-court interview. "I tried to be aggressive, use the serve very efficiently, come to net. I had everything working, really, every part of my game and this is great encouragement for the next challenge."

That would be two-time semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny, who fought past Lleyton Hewitt in five sets. Djokovic has won five of their eight meetings, though all of Youzhny's wins have come on hard courts.

IBM Stat of the Match: Djokovic was nearly flawless on his first serve, winning 28 of 32 points.

 

IBM is a proud sponsor and official technology partner of the U.S. Open. For more information on this match, visit IBM's SlamTracker.

 

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