Djokovic, qualifier Muller reach U.S. Open quarters
September 2, 2008
NEW YORK ” Novak Djokovic leaned on a doctor to reach the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. Gilles Muller proved a little luck helps, too.
The third-seeded Djokovic overcame hip, ankle and stomach ailments Tuesday to outlast Tommy Robredo 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
Muller later became just the second qualifier since 1968 to make the quarters at this tournament, finishing off No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10) with the most exciting point of the day.
Muller flicked a shot that clipped the net and made it over, forcing Davydenko to hustle in. Davydenko’s return also hit the net, but the ball popped up and landed back on his side.
Davydenko spiked his racket in anger. Muller dropped his racket in relief, then the 130th-ranked player threw it into the crowd to celebrate.
“I think it’s not about that last point. It’s about many points. I had so many chances,” Davydenko said.
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Earlier, fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva reached the semifinals, beating No. 15 Patty Schnyder 6-2, 6-3. No. 2 Roger Federer played in the late afternoon.
Popular for his impeccable impersonations of fellow pros, Djokovic gave a real-life imitation of someone who does his best when hurt.
“If I start talking about the things that are bothering me now, we can talk till tomorrow,” he said. “After the fourth set, I really doubted.”
Djokovic twice called for a doctor, and looked to be in serious trouble when he went to a fifth set against an extremely in-shape opponent. But with the score 2-all, the No. 15 Robredo tumbled onto the hard court while chasing a shot, and the Spaniard lost his zip.
Later, Robredo wondered how badly Djokovic was injured.
“Novak was doing the show,” Robredo said. “I had pain, as well, all over my body because I think I run a lot more than him, and I said nothing.”
“So did I trust him? No. I think he took his time because he was a little bit more tired and that’s a part of the game,” he said. “I think that if you’re not fit enough, then don’t play.”
Runner-up at the last U.S. Open and the Australian Open champion this year, Djokovic next takes on the winner of the Tuesday night match between No. 8 Andy Roddick and No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez.
“Whoever I play will be physically fitter than me, that’s for sure,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic is developing a history of coming up hurt at major tournaments. He quit because of an infected blister on a toe while trailing Rafael Nadal in a 2007 Wimbledon semifinal. He also stopped after losing the first two sets of his 2006 French Open quarterfinal against Nadal, citing a back injury, and retired during his second-round match of the 2005 French Open.
Djokovic struggled midway through this match and seemed to grow frustrated. At one point, he slung his racket after a missed shot, drawing boos and whistles from the crowd.
“Maybe they don’t like me anymore,” he said.
Noted for bouncing the ball up to 30 times before serves, he sped up his routine as the match went on, trying to get off the court quickly. Robredo often wouldn’t let him, engaging Djokovic in long rallies.
On a sunny afternoon with temperatures in the high 80s, Djokovic had enough energy in the end to raise his record to 8-3 in five-set matches. Robredo fell to 9-4 in them.
Muller is the best player to come from Luxembourg, but wants a lot more. After rallying from two-set deficits in his previous two matches, he joined Nicolas Escude in 1999 as the only qualifiers in the Open era to make the quarters at the U.S. Open.
While crowds at Flushing Meadows pressed around the practice courts to watch Serena Williams and Venus Williams warm up for their 17th career meeting Wednesday night, Dementieva defeated Schnyder in their 17th contest.
“Every time it’s different,” said Dementieva, 10-7 lifetime against her Swiss opponent.
After winning the Olympic gold medal and becoming a semifinalist at Wimbledon, Dementieva kept up her best run ever. She improved to 10-0 in sets at this tournament and next plays the winner of the night match between No. 2 Jelena Jankovic and No. 29 Sybille Bammer.
Dementieva beat Schnyder for the fourth straight time, including three victories this season, in a pairing that started in 1997. Neither has won a Grand Slam, no match for the 15 combined major titles by the Williams sisters.
The Russian star made it to the final of the 2004 U.S. Open, but her often-shaky serve deserted her and she got swept by Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Dementieva did much better this time, putting 80 percent of her first tries in play. She also was much more steady, making only 14 unforced errors to Schnyder’s 29.
“I think the serve was the key,” Dementieva said.