Apparently nothing was going to derail Novak Djokovic’s march to another major semifinals.
Not the blistering heat, not American Taylor Fritz and not even distractions from his own suite.
Djokovic ground out a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal win over Fritz at Arthur Ashe Stadium, one that kept alive his bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.
That would tie Margaret Court’s all-time majors record, and extend his own men’s mark.
And the star Serb is two wins away.
“This is the sport that has given me so much in my life, coming from Serbia, war-torn country when I was growing up, I faced a lot of adversity growing up and I had to endure a lot to even get a shot to travel and play international sport,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview. “I’ve been playing on this court for so many years, so many epic matches. I can’t wait for another one in a few days time.”
It’ll be his 47th Grand Slam semi — a record for men — and come versus another American, either Frances Tiafoe or Ben Shelton.
“It’s going to be an American player, for sure. I have to be ready for a great battle,” said Djokivic. “Both of the guys I’m going to face eventually — Shelton and Tiafoe — have a lot of charisma. They bring a lot of energy on the court. They’re very quick, very powerful.”
Djokovic was quick and powerful enough to win six of the nine break points he got on the ninth-seeded Fritz.
After Fritz, 25, looked outclassed in a 43-minute first set, he settled down in a close 6-4 second and grew into the game.
The crowd started to get behind him, something that seemed to poke the bear.
It triggered Djokovic, who started pumping his fist and yelling back at the fans.
“It’s expected, of course, that people are backing the home player. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Djokovic said. “I actually like the energy, like the atmosphere on center court here … people are getting into it.”
With Djokovic serving at deuce up 4-3 in the third, a fan yelled after his serve went in. Fritz hit a backhand return deep to the baseline, and — after Djokovic heard a fan yell ‘out!’ — seemed to stop tracking it mid-point.
He scrambled to return the deep ball, and the Serb only returned one ball after that.
Fritz took the point with a backhand winner to get the advantage, and Djokovic roared toward his suite.
After Djokovic got broken on the next point to even the set at 4-all, he pointed to his suite and told somebody to get out.
“He was actually in the box where some of my friends were. I don’t know who the guy was; but yeah, I was pretty annoyed by him at that point. I was communicating with my friends to have a little chat with him,” Djokovic laughed.
“I’m actually glad the crowd wants to get into it, because it means the match is interesting, that they want to be part of it, that they’re having fun. At the end of the day, they pay to come and watch you play, so we try to put on a show. … Sometimes [they] might have an interaction with the player, like this guy. I’m sorry for him, but he was really annoying at that point.”
Fritz is still looking for his first win at a major versus a top-10 foe after 11 tries.
He was 2 of 12 on break points, and 1 of 6 in that galling third set.
“I had chances in the third. I started stringing some good points together, giving myself breakpoint opportunities, I was holding. I didn’t take my chances,” Fritz said. “He was solid, and I didn’t perform well enough on a lot of the big points.”
But it was his own suddenly shaky serve that he’ll rue, losing just one service game in the entire Open before dropping six to Djokovic.
“I’m probably not going to play tennis for the next week. I hope when I come back in a week I’ll remember how to serve,” said Fritz.
“It wasn’t there at all. I served awful. It sucks.”