Novak Djokovic admittedly got a bit distracted.
He was unaware of the U.S. Open rule about time allowed between points. He kept barking in the direction of his entourage — among the only people in the Arthur Ashe Stadium seats. In the end, though, he did what he always does in 2020: win.
The No. 1-ranked Djokovic began his bid for Grand Slam title No. 18 on Monday night by extending his season start to 24-0 with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Damir Dzumhur at Flushing Meadows.
“Things got complicated,” Djokovic said. “Lost my focus.”
During a pre-match TV interview, Dzumhur said about Djokovic: “Hopefully, he is not 100 percent.”
That was probably a reference to the way Djokovic dealt with neck and stomach issues during last week’s run to the Western & Southern Open title on the same hard courts being used for the U.S. Open.
Djokovic played a three-set semifinal Friday, then a three-set semifinal Saturday.
But the 48 hours before facing Dzhumur, who has been ranked as high as 23rd and now is 109th, apparently were enough for a full physical recovery.
“I felt good on the court today,” said Djokovic, who trails only Roger Federer, with 20, and Rafael Nadal, with 19, in the men’s Grand Slam trophy standings.
Neither of those rivals is entered in the U.S. Open, only part of the reason Djokovic is an overwhelming favorite to win what would be his sixth title in a span of eight major tournaments.
One minor hiccup during his opening match had to do with the way the serve clock is being implemented at the U.S. Open: Chair umpires are starting that 25-second countdown much sooner now than they were during the Western & Southern Open.
Djokovic was not the only player to wonder aloud about that system during a match Monday.
“Why did you start it?” he asked chair umpire Damien Dumusois, noting that during the previous event players got more time to go collect their towels between points.
After Dumusois said the pace is intentionally supposed to be quicker at the U.S. Open, Djokovic replied: “You do it here different? Why? There is no explanation? … Thanks for letting us know.”
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