Tennis: Djokovic thanks fans after breaking record
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Novak Djokovic has been warned that his next opponent at the US Open could give him a tough test in his bid for history. The world No 1 is aiming to be the first man to reach 21 Majors and the first in 52 years to win the Calendar Grand Slam by picking up the title in Flushing Meadows. He faces American Jenson Brooksby in the fourth round, who has had an impressive North American hard court season so far.
Djokovic has run into some trouble already en route to the fourth round, having dropped a set to qualifier Holger Rune in his opening match, and another to Kei Nishikori in round three.
The world No 1 admitted after both matches that he didn’t start off playing the level he would have liked but has kept his chances of winning the Calendar Grand Slam alive, finding himself in the second week of the US Open.
His next opponent may appear to be an easier one on paper with his world No 99 ranking, but Brooksby has had the summer of his life and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The American stormed to the finals of the ATP 250 on the grass in Newport back in July when he was ranked 152nd in the world, losing to two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson in what was his first-ever main draw grass-court tournament.
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Usually a staple on the Challenger tour, he followed up his exploits in Newport by beating Anderson in the first round of the ATP 500 in Washington and then went on an impressive run, beating the likes of Frances Tiafe and Felix Auger-Aliassime before losing to Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals.
The 20-year-old has since backed up both results over the best-of-five Grand Slam format, beating world No 42 Taylor Fritz in four sets in the second round, before outlasting one of 2021’s biggest breakthrough stars, Aslan Karatsev, in five sets to book his meeting with Djokovic.
One person fully endorsing Brooksby’s talent is his compatriot Reilly Opelka, who recently made his first Masters 1000 final in Toronto and secured a career-high ranking of No 23.
The 24-year-old praised a host of younger American stars making a name for themselves on the big stage, backing Brooksby to give Djokovic a tough match.
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“I’m curious to see his match with Djokovic,” he said, according to TennisHead.
“I think he can give Djokovic a lot of fits because he’s just tricky.”
He also touched on Sebastian Korda and Brendan Nakashima’s successes, praising their ability at Grand Slam level.
Opelka continued: “Nakashima is as pure of a ball-striker as there is. I think the young guys are going to be the guys to beat from the American standpoint. I mean, I think it’s just one week. I think Brooksby is going to be a big second-week guy.
“Nakashima. I think Korda. I think the young guys are better than us, if I’m being honest. I think Korda is a hell of a player. Brooksby is brutal.”
Meanwhile, the world No 99 was looking forward to what he said was one of the most difficult challenges, facing Djokovic in a Grand Slam, but backed himself to fight.
“Yeah, it will be a great challenge. One of the toughest there can be,” he said after his win over Karatsev.
“But I’m really believing in myself with what I’m showing out there so far. I got a great team around me to help me recover tomorrow. Yeah, I go out there to battle again on I’m sure Ashe probably, I would assume.
“Yeah, I mean, that will be really exciting. I’m sure it will be a full crowd. I’m excited to see how well I can focus, see how well I can play with one of the biggest challenges and with one of the biggest crowds in a court that you can get.”
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