NEW YORK — The most recent Grand Slam champion in men’s singles was on the ropes, and then some, in his subsequent match at a major tournament. Like the champion he is, however, Novak Djokovic pulled out of trouble with his trademark defense, unquestioned passion and a innate ability to solve every problem on a hardcourt in a major tournament.
In one of the highlights of Day 2 of the 2018 US Open, the 2018 Wimbledon champion was able to overcome the oppressive New York City heat and dig out of trouble in a pivotal third-set sequence to defeat Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 during the afternoon session at Arthur Ashe Stadium. In his first US Open match losing in the final to Stan Wawrinka in 2016, Djokovic won his first set in routine fashion before the sweltering conditions inside the stadium started taking its toll (heat index readings went up to as high as 105 degrees on Tuesday in Queens), with a trainer and doctor seeing a visibly uncomfortable Djokovic at his chair during a changeover in late in the second set.
Fucsovics won that second set and had a break in the third at 4-2 before Djokovic rallied, once again resuming his role of “human backboard” and getting back everything Fucsovics threw at him while breaking back for 4-4 before winning the set. Djokovic ended up winning the last 10 games of the match.
“For the first three sets, it was a survival mode for both of us,” said Djokovic, who revealed that both he and Fucsovics were in ice baths right next to each other during a 10-minute break that was granted after the third set. “You have those days, you have those matches where you just have to figure out a way to hang in there, deal with these particular circumstances.”
Six different players had to retire from their matches on Tuesday due to heat-related conditions, including five on the men’s side. In somewhat of a departure from normal regulations, the US Open implemented a 10-minute break in all men’s matches between the third and fourth sets, a heat advisory rule that is official policy on the WTA Tour but is a discretionary one on the ATP Tour.
“They were lucky they only had retirements,” said Frenchman Julien Benneteau, who won his first-round match in four sets against Italian Marco Cecchinato.
Fortunately, it seems that all players who retired on Tuesday did not appear to suffer any additional injury or scare, though one of the players, former world No. 8 Mikhail Youzhny, will end his Grand Slam career with a loss (to Marcos Baghdatis) due to a match retirement.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from all of Tuesday’s action at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with all photos taken by ALOST’s senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 41 pictures in total.