Novak Djokovic sailed into the US Open third round Wednesday in his quest for a 24th Grand Slam triumph as Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff stayed on a quarter-final collision course in New York.
Djokovic climbed through the gears against 76th-ranked Bernabe Zapata Miralles, winning 13 of the last 15 games to ease through 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 in two hours on Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
Next up for the Serbian star is compatriot and 32nd seed Laslo Djere, with Djokovic keeping up his record of always reaching at least the last 32 in New York.
“At 36 years of age, after 20 years of coming to New York, I still have the hunger to play my best tennis on this court,” said Djokovic, a three-time US Open champion.
“I have the experience and understanding of what needs to be done in the important moments. Preserving the energy and focusing on the present moment.”
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Defending champion and world number one Swiatek swept past Australia’s Daria Saville 6-3, 6-4.
The Pole is bidding to become the first woman to successfully defend her US Open crown since Serena Williams won a hat-trick of titles from 2012-2014.
“It wasn’t easy but I’m happy I tried to play my game and play aggressively with a lot of intensity and I’m just happy to be in the third round,” said Swiatek, aiming for her fifth Grand Slam triumph.
Swiatek will now play Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan on Friday for a place in the last 16.
Gauff, 19, brushed aside 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, the youngest player in the draw, 6-3, 6-2 to continue her strong run on hard courts this summer after titles in Washington and Cincinnati.
The sixth seed, viewed as one of the favourites in New York, takes on Belgium’s Elise Mertens for a place in the last 16 after getting the better of Andreeva for the second time in three Grand Slams.
“I just learned to be aggressive, because if you give her something she is going to take advantage,” said Gauff, who overcame Andreeva in three sets at Roland Garros in June.
“She has a great future in front of her – I think she is going to be back on this stage many more times.”
Mertens, the 32nd seed, battled back from the brink by saving two match points in the second-set tie-break to knock off the dangerous Collins, last year’s Australian Open runner-up.
The Belgian, who had the support of three-time US Open winner Kim Clijsters in her box, advanced 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 6-1 and now awaits Gauff.
Tsitsipas dumped out
Stefanos Tsitsipas’ miserable US Open run continued as he crashed out to 21-year-old Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker in five sets.
Tsitsipas served for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set but the 128th-ranked Stricker rallied to prevail 7-5, 6-7 (2/7), 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 in just over four hours.
“I don’t know how. I did it somehow. Actually a bit speechless but it’s a great day,” said Stricker, who had won just one Grand Slam match before this week.
Greece’s Tsitsipas, the seventh seed and a two-time Grand Slam finalist, has never progressed beyond round three in six visits to New York.
Czech 10th seed Karolina Muchova, this year’s French Open finalist, sailed past Magdalena Frech in straight sets.
Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic ended the run of British qualifier Lily Miyazaki 6-3, 6-3, but Brazilian 19th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia was dumped out by Taylor Townsend 7-6 (7/1), 7-5.
Fifth seed Casper Ruud, runner-up at three of the past six majors including last year’s US Open, takes on China’s Zhang Zhizhen in his second round match on Wednesday.
Elena Rybakina, the women’s fourth seed, plays Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the night session on Louis Armstrong, while old rivals Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki also meet under the lights.