US Open 2021: Djokovic, Raducanu record very different wins on Day 6 as Barty, Shapovalov fall

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts against Kei Nishikori of Japan during his Men's Singles third round match of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean...

On another action-packed day at Flushing Meadows, Kei Nishikori’s high-quality provided a stern test for Novak Djokovic but the world no. 1 recovered from a set down to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Elsewhere, Emma Raducanu dismantled Sara Sorribes Tormo to reach the second week at successive Slams, where she’ll face Ashleigh Barty’s conqueror Shelby Rogers on Monday.

Raducanu races into r4, picks apart sloppy sorribes tormo

Emma Raducanu of the United Kingdom celebrates after defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain during her Women's Singles third round match on Day Six...
Raducanu celebrates after earning a dominant victory over the world no. 41

Raducanu bt. Sorribes Tormo 6-0, 6-1

Raducanu won her sixth US Open match in ten days and this one felt stark, as she was thoroughly dominant against a slow-starting Sorribes Tormo – with no drop-off this time around.

With 23 winners and 79% first serve points won (22/28), she edged an arduous back-and-forth game at 0-1 to earn the early break of serve after 12 minutes and didn’t look back.

While it was easy to see where this matchup was going before long, Sorribes Tormo couldn’t match the Brit’s aggression and was punished for being too predictable with her shot selection.

Outgunned from the baseline, Raducanu’s power and shot variance meant there was no time on the ball for the Spaniard, blasting winners left, right and centre while making her move plenty.

The 24-year-old had stunned Karolina Muchova (#22) in round one, while avoiding a slippery task against Su-Wei Hsieh on Thursday. But here, she never got going and an inability to hold serve proved decisive as she suddenly found herself down 6-0 in 33 minutes.

In fairness, she never stopped trying despite fighting a losing battle against a fearless teenager who had the crowd on side and momentum in her stride.

“I’m happy that I managed to maintain [my level], can’t give her anything. The plan was to hit through her, hit the corners, took the game to her and had more winners than errors. I’ve got a great team with me, into the third week [here] and I’m so excited, recover tomorrow and back on it Monday.”

Player Shelby Rogers throws her racquet as she celebrates her win over Australia's Ashleigh Barty during their 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women's...
Rogers can’t believe it, as she celebrates her come-from-behind deciding set victory

A forehand winner down-the-line sealed match point for Raducanu, who faces America’s Shelby Rogers to start next week with a quarter-final place at stake after the 28-year-old stunned Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 1-6, 7-6, having been 5-2 down in the deciding set.

“I’m happy that I managed to maintain [my level], can’t give her anything. The plan was to hit through her, hit the corners, took the game to her and had more winners than errors. I’ve got a great team with me, into the third week [here] and I’m so excited, recover tomorrow and back on it Monday.”

Nishikori provides stiff test for Djokovic, who responds

Novak Djokovic of Serbia meets at the net after defeating Kei Nishikori of Japan during his Men's Singles third round match of the 2021 US Open at...
The pair meet at the net after their second matchup in just over a month, a contrasting affair

Djokovic (#1) bt. Nishikori 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2

In a match with high-quality tennis by both, Djokovic was tested and duly punished for an error-heavy start as Kei Nishikori ended his 18-set losing run against the Serb, edging a tense tiebreak.

The world no.1 hit 20 unforced errors in set one and made a conscious effort to get the Japanese international on the run, though Nishikori played well and regularly hit his sweet spots.

Although that tactic would eventually pay off against an increasingly weary opponent still feeling the effects after a five-set clash against Mackenzie McDonald in round two, Kei gave as good as he got in the first two hours. Ultimately, it came down to break points – countless opportunities.

Djokovic regularly had an answer for them under ever-increasing pressure, doing a great job defensively to save 85% total (11/13) without truly playing his best tennis for sustained periods.

There were moments sprinkled in where he raised his level, like earning an early break to start set two by winning a breathless rally at the net. His serving was, again, unnerving (seven double faults, 63% 1st serve percentage) and will need to be more consistent as the rounds continue.

But in fairness to Novak, he took risks many others simply wouldn’t manage to pull off: gutsy 110-120mph second serves, reversing tension back towards Nishikori who saved his costly errors in the most important moments.

Overthinking his returns and often hitting the net tape for good measure, you could hear the crowd collectively sense a turning point after Djokovic saved five break points in a game.

Although his backhand let him down, the 34-year-old’s crosscourt forehand shot certainly wasn’t: incisive and causing Nishikori trouble before another break of serve early in set three.

That serving struggle returned to gift Kei another glimmer of hope, as Djokovic – energised by his improved shot-making – hit successive double faults. Nishikori had more break points but couldn’t take them promptly, which ultimately proved his downfall.

Brooksby, Harris with big wins to down seeded duo

Jenson Brooksby of the United States celebrates a point against Aslan Karatsev of Russia during his Men's Singles third round match of the 2021 US...
Wildcard Brooksby, age 20, is into round four at his home Grand Slam for the first time

As for Novak, he knows he’s got to play better than that. His Slam continues vs. America’s 20-year-old wildcard Jenson Brooksby on Monday, who recovered from a set down to beat Taylor Fritz in R2 and most recently came back from 2-1 down to oust Aslan Karatsev (#21) in five sets.

Elsewhere, South Africa’s Lloyd Harris continued his impressive rise in what has proven a career-best year for the 24-year-old – reaching round four at a Major tournament for the first time, winning in straight-sets (6-4, 6-4, 6-4) against an increasingly furious Denis Shapovalov (#7).

Shapovalov served nine double faults, recorded almost double Harris’ unforced error count (40-23) and produced just 24 winners in a match lasting little over two hours, which is a considerable drop-off after straight-set victories against Federico Delbonis and Roberto Carballes Baena.

He’ll play America’s Reilly Opelka for a quarter-final berth on Monday, after the big-hitter needed just five more match minutes to knock out Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Jack Sock won the first set 6-3 with 18 winners and just three unforced errors, but the New York crowd were left imagining what could have been as the 28-year-old retired with a thigh injury against Alexander Zverev.

He needed a medical timeout and some treatment at the start of set two, had heavy strapping applied in that area and it soon became obvious he wouldn’t be very competitive afterwards.

Zverev plays Italy’s 20-year-old talent Jannik Sinner next, after the Washington winner showed great resilience to recover from a tricky situation and eventually win a deciding set 6-4 against French showman Gael Monfils – having lost the previous two 6-4 during a back-and-forth clash.

Picture source: Getty Images


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