Novak Djokovic came back from two sets down to survive a big scare from Laslo Djere as he reached the second week at the US Open.
The three-time champion lost the opening two sets but ultimately prevailed 4-6 4-6 6-1 6-1 6-3 against his compatriot in three hours and 48 minutes.
It means that Djokovic is into the second week of the US Open for a 15th consecutive time as the Serb will look to play better as the tournament goes on.
Speaking after the match Djokovic praised Djere but admitted he has to be playing better than he did, “I thought he played terrific. I mean, I honestly have never seen him play like this,” Djokovic told journalists after the match.
“He was feeling the ball extremely well. Everything was kind of in his striking zone. He was tactically prepared very well. I think he started off the match very, very good. He was far more comfortable than me. I was defending mostly in the first two sets.
“To be honest, I could have and should have played better, on a high level in these two sets, but huge credit to him for making me uncomfortable on the court and playing really some of the best tennis I’ve ever seen him play.
“Congrats to him. Tough luck to him. I told him at the net he should keep going because if he’s going to continue playing this way, he’s only going to work his way up in the rankings. He’s a terrific guy, works extremely hard.
Tonight he shows that he deserves to be ranked much higher than he is.”
A real test for Djokovic that shows he will need to raise his level as the tournament goes on ahead of a potential showdown in the final with Carlos Alcaraz.
Speaking of the rest of the field, Djokovic believes his five set thriller sends a message that he is able to go the full distance ahead of a intriguing second week, “Well, look, of course winning a match is always better than losing a match. It’s as simple as that,” Djokovic stated.
“I think the message is sent to the rest of the field that obviously I’m still able to play five sets deep at night. Coming from two sets down always sends a strong message to the future opponents.
“At the same time I’m not really wanting to be in this position, to be honest. I prefer a straight-set win. Hopefully I can get back on that track in the next match.”
Next for Djokovic will be talented Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo, who defeated Jiri Vesely in straight sets.
Sunday’s meeting will be the first meeting between the two players.