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  07 Sep 2021, 10:10

Djokovic tested but wins at US Open to advance Slam quest

   NEW YORK, Sept 7, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Novak Djokovic struggled but advanced

within three matches of completing the first men's singles calendar-year
Grand Slam in 52 years on Monday by outlasting American Jenson Brooksby at
the US Open.

  World number one Djokovic rallied past 99th-ranked Brooksby 1-6, 6-3, 6-2,
6-2 to book a quarter-final encounter with Italian sixth seed Matteo
Berrettini in a rematch of July's Wimbledon final.

  "It's going to be exciting," Djokovic said. "He loves the big stage. Big
serve, big game overall. I know what to expect. Going to try to prepare a
good game plan and hope for the best."

  The 34-year-old Serbian star would become the first man since Rod Laver in
1969 to sweep all four major titles in the same year by capturing his fourth
career US Open crown.

  Djokovic also seeks a men's singles record 21st Slam trophy, which would
boost him one ahead of "Big Three" rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal,
both absent with injuries.

  An epic shocker seemed possible when Brooksby, a 20-year-old American
wildcard who hadn't played Djokovic before, broke in the second and sixth
games and fired a service winner to claim the first set in 29 minutes.

  "He just played a perfect first set," Djokovic said. "I could do nothing. I
was still finding my footing on the court.

  "I must say it wasn't a great start. Jenson was pumped. He had a clear game
plan. He was executing his shots tremendously. I was on my back foot. He was
reading the play well for a set and a half."

  Djokovic broke in the second game of the second set, but was broken in a
electrifying 20-minute fifth game, netting a backhand on Brooksby's sixth
break chance as the American raised his arms and jumped for joy.

  But Djokovic broke back in the sixth game, ripping a cross-court forehand
winner for a 4-2 lead, and held from there to take the 68-minute set.

  "After that, I started hitting more cleanly and through the court," said
Djokovic. "Whenever I needed a serve I found my spot well. It was physical, a
lot of exhausting rallies."

  In all, Djokovic won 15 of the last 20 games after the marathon broken
serve, rolling to victory in the stamina test after two hours and 59 minutes.

  Berrettini advanced by defeating 144th-ranked German qualifier Oscar Otte
6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

  - Olympic champs advance -

  Tokyo Olympic champions Alexander Zverev and Belinda Bencic advanced with
straight-set triumphs, as did British 18-year-old qualifier Emma Raducanu.

  German fourth seed Zverev stretched his win streak to 15 matches by beating
Italian 13th seed Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7).

  Swiss 11th seed Bencic eliminated Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek, last
year's French Open champion, 7-6 (14/12), 6-3.

  And 150th-ranked Raducanu ripped 43rd-ranked American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-
1 in 66 minutes.

  Raducanu is only the third qualifier to reach the US Open women's quarter-
finals after Estonia's Kaia Kanepi in 2017 and American Barbara Gerken in
1981.

  Zverev, last year's US Open runner-up, reached his seventh career Slam
quarter-final and fourth in the past five Slams.

  Zverev saved two set points on his serve in the 12th game of the third set
and three more in the tie-breaker before Sinner netted a forehand to end
matters after two hours and 25 minutes.

  "That's the last few months for me," Zverev said. "Players with confidence
know what to do in these situations. I'm happy to get through in straight
sets."

  Zverev will next face 46th-ranked Lloyd Harris of South Africa, who
eliminated US 22nd seed Reilly Opelka 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.

  Swiatek beat Bencic in their only prior meeting in February's Adelaide
final, but the Swiss hasn't dropped a set this week and has been broken only
three times.

  "I've improved my game a lot," Bencic said. "I'm glad to turn it around and
get through." Bencic next plays Raducanu, a US Open debutant who hasn't
dropped a set in four matches and easily disposed of the woman who ousted
top-ranked Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty.

  "Belinda is a great player who is in great form," Raducanu said. "I'm going
to just have to bring it."

  Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, this year's Wimbledon runner-up, beat
Russian 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-4.

  She next faces either 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, the sixth seed
from Canada, or Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari.

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