US Open 2021: Novak Djokovic fights back to beat Kei Nishikori and reach fourth round

He will face American Jenson Brooksby next, after the wildcard beat Russian 21st seed Aslan Karatsev in five sets.

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, reacts after scoring a point against Kei Nishikori, of Japan, during the third round of the US Open tennis championships.   -  AP

After tackling two U.S. Open debutants, Novak Djokovic faced an old foe on Saturday, reaching the fourth round with a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Kei Nishikori to stay on course for a record 21st major title that would complete the calendar Grand Slam.

Following first-ever meetings with Denmark's Holger Rune and Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, Djokovic faced a seasoned campaigner in Nishikori, who was runner-up at the 2014 U.S. Open, having beaten the Serb to move into that year's final.

Since then, it has been one-way traffic in the rivalry, with Djokovic sweeping 17 straight contests against the Japanese player, improving his head-to-head record to 18-2.

But after Nishikori's 6-2, 6-0 quarterfinal thumping at the hands of the world No. 1 at the Tokyo Olympics, the 31-year-old made Djokovic sweat for his victory.

"So far, the toughest match of the tournament for me," said Djokovic. "The opening two rounds obviously felt well, played good.

"But the pace of the ball and the speed of Nishikori's tennis today was just higher than the opening two rounds' opponents that I had."

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Usually the headliner under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights, Djokovic made a matinee appearance on Saturday and appeared unsettled by the conditions as he went to work under a blazing sun.

For the first time this week, New York fans, who have not always embraced Djokovic, got behind the history-hunting Serb, showering him with cheers.

"Arthur Ashe is the place where you bring the energy," said Djokovic. "That's where you feel this kind of electric atmosphere, particularly in the matches like this where it's decided in a few points.

"Yeah, the crowd was involved. It was loud. It was nice. I thrived on that."

A tight opening set was snatched by Nishikori in a tiebreak before Djokovic began to settle into the contest. He broke the Japanese player twice in the second on his way to levelling the match at a set apiece.

In another workmanlike effort, the top seed took the decisive break in the third to go ahead 5-3, then held serve for a 2-1 lead.

Now in control, Djokovic would leave Nishikori no openings to hope for a comeback, storming through the last four games of the fourth set to close out the contest in style.

Djokovic will face American Jenson Brooksby next, after the wildcard beat Russian 21st seed Aslan Karatsev in five sets.

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Berrettini survives five-set test to reach U.S. Open fourth round

Italian sixth seed Matteo Berrettini survived a third-round test from Ilya Ivashka to win 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, firing off 27 aces in front of an adoring Grandstand crowd on Saturday.

A handful of unforced errors cost the first-set tiebreak for the Wimbledon runner-up, who got the break in the fourth game of the second set and fired 21 winners to plough through the third.

Berrettini put up a strong defensive performance in the fourth, saving six of eight break points. But the Belarusian converted when it counted as the Italian struggled at the baseline.

The crowd chanted "Matteo!" as he began serving for the match, and the 25-year-old pumped his fist and let out a roar after clinching the contest to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the third year in a row.

He next faces German qualifier, Oscar Otte.

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