With his straight sets victory against Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo, Novak Djokovic cruised into the quarterfinals of the US Open.
With his 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 victory in New York, No. 2 seed Djokovic kept up his pursuit of a record-tying 24th major title.
“I did well in the important moments and I’m pleased to get through in three sets,” said Djokovic, a three-time winner.
The 36-year-old Serb’s quarterfinal opponent will be Taylor Fritz of the United States, the ninth seed in the tournament.
To join Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton in the second round on Sunday, 25-year-old Fritz defeated Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-4.
At least one American will advance to the semifinals after 25-year-old Tiafoe defeated Australia’s Rinky Hijikata 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 to set up a last-eight match against Shelton.
Twenty-year-old Shelton defeated 14th seed Tommy Paul in four sets (6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4), marking the first time since 2005 that three American men had advanced to the quarterfinals.
Murray loses his New York mixed doubles match.
The three American tennis players face a “ready” Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
To become the first male player from the host country to win the singles title since Andy Roddick in 2003, Fritz, Tiafoe, and Shelton are all competing for the trophy.
Fritz will need to beat Djokovic in order to achieve Roddick’s level of success.
With his straightforward victory against the 105th-ranked Gojo, Djokovic advanced to his 57th major quarterfinal, putting him within one of Roger Federer’s Open era record.
After coming back from two sets down against fellow Serb Laslo Djere in the previous round, this victory couldn’t have gone any better.
Djokovic did not let Gojo earn a break point against him in the first set, but he did lose his serve at 2-0 in the second when he sent a volley into the net.
But Gojo, even at age 25, just couldn’t seem to get things together. The powerful Croat’s five double faults let Djokovic to easily take control of the game.
As Gojo grew tired, Djokovic proceeded to neutralize him and take care of his own service games, eventually breaking his serve three more times and setting up a third match point with an ace out wide.
“I felt Borna was a big-time player with a big-time game. Djokovic noted that limiting his serve and preventing his aces was crucial to winning.
“I attempted to control my energy levels and concentrate on serving accurately.
“I know the matches are going to get harder, but I’m prepared for that.”
Smiling, Shelton hopes to motivate his future audience.
Shelton beat Paul with two serves of 149 miles per hour, and he believes his victory would encourage young people to “develop a passion for tennis.”
The two aces were only a few miles per hour slower than Roddick’s record-setting 152 mph thunderbolt that won him the event 20 years ago.
That’s not all I do besides play tennis. “I don’t just win a lot of matches and put on a show on the court,” Shelton explained.
I try to be a good person and have a positive influence on a lot of kids.
“It would mean the world to me if there were a lot of kids in the stands who got hooked on tennis because of me.”
He continued, “That’s cool, but I’m also not out there to chase the miles per hour,” in reference to the 149 mph serves. I’m doing my best to serve.
Hitting 149, 141, and 149 again today hurt a little. The next two games I played, I lost. When I’m trying to hit harder than I can or when I’m chasing a number, it throws off my timing.
Shelton’s manner is clearly meant to motivate, and after a shaky start that saw him fall behind 3-0 in the first set, the New York fans immediately warmed to him thanks to his strength and determination to follow the aggressive route.
You just cannot ignore its existence. According to BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra’s tennis correspondent Russell Fuller, “it rubs off on anyone.”
You have to be a hardened cynic to not be inspired by Ben Shelton’s tennis skills. The way he plays makes me happy.