WATCH—Court Report from Day 10 at the US Open:
NEW YORK—It’s probably not accurate to say that Novak Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over John Millman on Wednesday night was, as the saying goes, “closer than the scores indicated.” But it was definitely more eventful. Over its two hours and 48 minutes, the quarterfinal between the Serb and the Australian featured a number of strange occurrences.
Even as Djokovic jumped to an early lead, he was staggered by the humid, airless conditions in Ashe, and a series of arduously long rallies with Millman. Literally staggered—Djokovic nearly fell over after a few shots, and he wandered off in the wrong direction after a few points. It looked for a minute as if Millman were going to score his second TKO over a top player this week. But we’ve seen Djokovic get off the mat before, and he recovered as the match progressed.
In part, that’s because Millman threw him a lifeline. Early in the second set, he suddenly announced that he needed to leave the court to change his sweat-drenched shorts. Djokovic was happy to take a rest, sit back with his shirt off on the sideline, and use the nasal spray his team handed him. While Djokovic struggled to convert break points—he was 1 of 11 by the middle of the second set—he finally broke Millman at 4-4 and ran out the set.
By the middle of the third set, though, Djokovic, lover of drama and difficulty, was ready to throw himself off track again. Up a break, he was given a time warning. On the next point, he appeared to get a second violation intentionally, and then was broken. Again, Djokovic recovered relatively quickly, breaking at 4-4 and holding for the match.
Despite the mental and physical ups and downs, Djokovic was in command when he needed to be. He pushed Millman toward the sidelines and forced him to do most of the running. He returned serve effectively. And he didn’t have much trouble retrieving Millman’s most penetrating ground strokes. Yet Djokovic wasn’t content to just grind Millman down; he also made the mistake of trying to drop shot him, and he kept drop-shotting even after Millman proved he had the wheels to track them down.
As for the Aussie giant-killer, he acquitted himself well in defeat, and showed that, despite being an Ashe Stadium novice, he knows how to command a stage—Millmania lived for a second night. He made the rallies entertaining, and the match competitive. Up to a point: There was always a sense that Djokovic had another gear, provided he could keep his composure and concentration long enough to reach it.
Afterward, Djokovic pronounced himself “very tested.” On the one hand, you might say this match had a lot of crisis and commotion, before resolving itself in routine fashion. On the other hand, you could just call it a Novak Djokovic match at a major.
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