(AP) What could have been a great day for American tennis instead turned into a dominating afternoon for Novak Djokovic.
The third-seeded Djokovic routed No. 19-seeded American Mardy Fish, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 Monday, sapping the energy from both his opponent and nearly packed Arthur Ashe Stadium and leaving only one American man in the draw at the U.S. Open.
Djokovic, eyeing his third straight U.S. Open semifinal, will play No. 17 Gael Monfils in the quarters. Earlier, Monfils beat fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.
Since a five-set scare in the first round, Djokovic hasn’t dropped a set. Against Fish, who has played two five-setters in addition to doubles over the first week, the Serb was the better, fresher player.
“I’m playing with a lot of confidence,” Djokovic said. “It’s definitely great to raise the level of performance toward the end of the tournament. It’s been a great couple years for me in New York. Hopefully, I can go on.”
With Fish’s exit, No. 20 Sam Querrey is the only American left in the men’s draw. Querrey faces No. 25 Stanislas Wawrinka on Tuesday in the fourth round and is the last hope for the United States to break a seven-year drought without a champion at the U.S. Open. His quarter of the draw is without a player seeded in the top 10.
“He seems like he’s in a great spot right now,” Fish said.
With countrymen Andy Roddick and John Isner already gone, Fish was hoping to make Labor Day something memorable for his country – an underdog trying to get some momentum, and the crowd, on his side early, maybe channel his inner Jimmy Connors and turn the stadium into his own, personal cheering section.
That never came close to happening against Djokovic, who dictated most points from the baseline and wound up with 30 winners to 13 for Fish. The occasional shout of “Don’t give up, Mardy” echoed from the stands, but mostly, this was a flat afternoon and Fish couldn’t do much to perk things up.
Midway through the final set in the windblown stadium, Fish changed tactics and tried coming to the net more often. That didn’t go well, either. He went 2-for-6 on serve-and-volley points and won only half the 22 points he played at the net.
“I felt so many times today, like even off my first serves, I was sort of fighting to neutralize the point,” Fish said. “I was on my back foot quite a bit, even when I was with the wind.”
Djokovic’s next opponent is Monfils, who brings his own flair – and dreadlocks – to the court.
The Frenchman has long professed his love for New York, and he got the crowd in Armstrong Stadium behind him. He then overcame a break in the third set to close out Gasquet in straight sets.
“He (doesn’t) like to see the opponent show emotions,” Monfils said. “Just play with that, play a bit with his mind, and that was it.”
Before the Fish match, Dominika Cibulkova upset No. 11 Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (4) to make the quarterfinals. Ranked 45th, the Slovakian is the lowest-ranked player left in the woman’s draw.
Kuznetsova was the two-time Grand Slam champion in Monday’s match but didn’t look it. The 11th-seeded Russian had 10 double-faults and 42 unforced errors. Kuznetsova reached a second U.S. Open final in 2007 but hasn’t made it beyond the fourth round since.
“I think she plays good, but my level is higher, and I have to win these matches,” Kuznetsova said.
Also winning Monday was No. 31 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, who rallied for a 0-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory over one of last year’s semifinalists, No. 15 Yanina Wickmayer.
The last two women’s quarterfinalists were to be determined later Monday in matches pitting No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki against No. 14 Maria Sharapova and Andrea Petkovic against No. 7 Vera Zvonareva.
On Sunday, No. 3 Venus Williams, No. 6 Francesca Schiavone, No. 2 Kim Clijsters and No. 5 Sam Stosur earned quarterfinal spots. Stosur’s 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2) win over No. 12 Elena Dementieva ended at 1:35 a.m., the latest finish for a women’s match in U.S. Open history. Her next opponent is Clijsters, who wrapped up her 6-2, 6-1 win over Ana Ivanovic shortly after the lunch hour Sunday.
“She’s got a 14-hour head start on me,” Stosur said. “She played first and I played last, so there’s not much bigger difference than that.”
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