• US Open

Djokovic makes light work of Schwartzman

Michael Beattie in New York
August 26, 2014
Novak Djokovic has endured a difficult build-up to the US Open on court, but made a fine start in New York © AP

Reports of Novak Djokovic's demise in recent weeks have been greatly exaggerated. Now married and soon to be a father, since winning Wimbledon he has walked on court with the distracted air of a man coming to terms with a new reality. Back among the familiar surrounds of Arthur Ashe Stadium and the US Open, however, he proved to be a world No.1 once more.

A 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory against poor Diego Schwartzman, the Argentine who played Roger Federer in the second round of his debut grand slam at Roland Garros and ran directly into Djokovic in New York, can hardly be taken as a sign that the Serbian's game is where he wants it to be.

It was the manner of the win, however, that will lift his confidence, dented by uncharacteristically sketchy performances and early exits in Toronto and Cincinnati. Timing, movement, reactions, - all the facets that were said to be sub-par at the Masters 1000 events were firing for long spells during the last of the opening day's action in New York. It was a performance befitting a player who has reached the final for five of the past seven years, if not that of a player at the height of his powers.

Tsonga through as Williams feels the buzz

  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga suffered no troubles winning through to the second round of the US Open, while Nick Kyrgios became the first teenager since Novak Djokovic in 2006 to beat a seeded player in successive grand slams.
  • In the women's draw, Simona Halep had to dig deep to survive her opening round match while Agnieszka Radwanska and Jelena Jankovic both cruised - although Venus Williams had arguably the toughest fight of the day, against a honey bee during her opening match.
  • Read the men's wrap here
  • Read the women's wrap here

"I'm very pleased. It's never easy to start a US Open smoothly," Djokovic said. "I love playing night sessions - I hope it was a midnight delight."

Djokovic admitted the changes in his private life had affected his game in the lead-up to the US Open.

"I didn't have much time to think about tennis with all this happening, but it's only positive emotions we are living through," he said, paying tribute to his wife Jelena, who was unable to join him in New York with the due date of their child now two months away.

Schwartzman played his part in an entertaining contest that gave Djokovic the opportunity to test his full arsenal, if not in battle mode. The world No.79 was prepared to push Djokovic onto the back foot and found some success with a handful of running drives that flashed past the top seed as he nicked his only game of the opener with a break, milking the crowd's adulation of the underdog.

For the mostpart, however, the Argentine could not match Djokovic's court craft. Dipping, angled cross-court forehands, sneaks to the net, a drop shot or two and even a 124mph second serve all hit their marks. At the height of his play, leading 4-1 in the second, he produced a blistering forehand hit between the net post and the umpire's chair for a winner that stripped the tramline. Coach Boris Becker's jaw dropped at the audicity.

There were signs of a dip in concentration early in the third, with Schwartzman reaching break point with the chance to go 2-0 up. The Serbian served himself out of trouble and promptly broke himself to assert his dominance, but took his foot off the gas. The unforced errors began to rack up - by the end of the match he had 27, three more less than his opponent - and Schwartzman took advantage, breaking back at 3-3 courtesy of a double-fault.

Once more, however, the former champion responded with a break, his second of the set, and swatted a nonchalant forehand winner to move within a game of victory at 5-3. The match was settled with Djokovic again trying to go around the net-post with a forehand; this time he clipped the tape, and the ball dropped for a winner.

Harder tests await Djokovic - starting with Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the second round and, should the seedings prove their worth, a quarter-final affair with Andy Murray - and by no means would he rank this as the perfect performance. But as a statement of intent and a reminder of what he is capable of, this was the start he needed in New York.

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