NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic capped a perfect Thursday for the favorites at the U.S. Open with an entertaining victory over Germany’s Philipp Petzschner to reach the third round of the year’s final grand slam.
Third-seeded Djokovic closed out an irresistible display by the seeds with a lively 7-5 6-3 7-6 win under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The Serb’s victory marked the fifth successive straight-sets win for seeded players on center court, although he was forced to work harder than his predecessors against a spirited opponent armed with a formidable serve.
The keenly contested encounter was 12 games old before Djokovic managed the first service break, taking a lot of energy out of both players and leading to an unusual third set tiebreak where seven points in a row were won against serve.
Djokovic squandered two match points, double-faulting on the first when serving at 6-4 and then hitting a forehand into the net on the second.
The 52nd-ranked Petzschner, who teamed with Austrian Jurgen Melzer to win this year’s Wimbledon doubles title, sailed a second serve return long to end the two-hour 23-minute match.
“He’s a very good player, you have to give him credit,” Djokovic said. “He serves well. He was changing up the pace and not giving me any rhythm. I was just fortunate to hold on.
“It was very shaky at the end of the match but I was just fortunate to hold on.”
The crackling match saw a brief interruption when a fight broke out in the upper deck in which three people were handcuffed and taken away in a dispute over “bad language” according to officials.
Petzschner also seemed a little rattled at times and slugged two balls into the crowd out of frustration.
Djokovic saved the best bit of entertainment for the last in post-match comments on the court.
Exhorted by fans late in the contest to match Swiss master Roger Federer’s famed back-to-the-net, between-the-legs winners as the Serb raced back for a ball against Petzschner, Djokovic instead ripped a backhand winner.
Asked by the interviewer if he had that “tweener shot between your legs,” Djokovic offered a perfectly timed comedy reply.
“No. I have something else between my legs,” he quipped, eliciting roars of laughter and applause from the center court fans.
“But don’t worry, I will not show it to you tonight.”
Djokovic, U.S. Open runner-up to Federer in 2007 and beaten semi-finalist by the Swiss in the last two tournaments, will next face unseeded American James Blake, who advanced against Canadian Peter Polansky.
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by John O’Brien
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