Novak Djokovic shook off the effects of a sore left shoulder to beat the unseeded Denis Kudla, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, on Friday night.
Djokovic, the No. 1 men’s seed and defending champion, was hampered by the injury during his second-round match against Juan Ignacio Lóndero on Wednesday. But he appeared fit and focused on Friday.
“I’m very glad with the way it went,” he said about his shoulder. “I am able to play. That for me is a huge blessing today because it was probably the complete opposite two days ago.”
He would not specify what the injury was, but he said he played “almost” pain free.
Djokovic’s next opponent will be the No. 23 seed Stan Wawrinka, who beat Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, 6-4, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (4), to set up an intriguing fourth-round matchup on Sunday.
Djokovic is 21-5 against Wawrinka, but their last meeting was the 2016 U.S. Open final, which Wawrinka won in four sets. That was toward the beginning of a two-year slide in which Djokovic failed to win eight consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, a relatively long drought for the Serbian.
Since then, Djokovic has won four of the last five majors, including this year’s Wimbledon for his 16th major title over all. If his shoulder problem is indeed behind him, he will once again be considered the favorite to win the U.S. Open.
That was not so clear on Wednesday, when Djokovic said that his shoulder pain was so severe that he was not certain he could finish that match. He received treatment and did not practice Thursday.
Before Friday’s match there was some lingering uncertainty over whether Djokovic would even be able to take the court against Kudla. He did not go onto the practice court until 7:20 p.m., unusually late even for a player in the second night match.
Djokovic seemed edgy during that practice session and engaged in a confrontation with a spectator on the other side of the fence from the court, and asked security to remove the spectator. He would not disclose the substance of the discussion, but Djokovic did say he drew motivation from it.
“I think he did me a favor,” he said. “Even, maybe he didn’t want to do me a favor, he did me a favor. Big favor.”
About an hour later, Djokovic was yelling at a different fan. At the conclusion of a long rally that he won in the first set, he turned and screamed an expletive at a fan, who was making noise during play. Then, toward the end of the match, he got into some banter with fans in the front row.
“Night sessions, New York, crowd gets into it,” Djokovic said. “A couple guys that had a couple of drinks more than I guess they were supposed to. But it was all good after.”
Djokovic regained his composure, exerted his dominance over Kudla, and refocus his mission to become the first player to win back-to-back men’s U.S. Open titles since Roger Federer in 2007-8.
In the night match going on at the same time in Louis Armstrong Stadium, No. 5 Daniil Medvedev also used negative fan reaction as fuel. Booed vociferously after receiving a code violation for angrily yanking a towel from a ball boy and then later making an obscene gesture, Medvedev outlasted Feliciano López, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4.
As the fans booed and returned the obscene gesture during his postmatch interview, Medvedev said, “Your energy tonight gave me the win.”
Coco Gauff wins in doubles, too.
It was hard to find a spot on Court 5, the small court at the United States Open, on Friday afternoon. But those who did were able to get a close-up view of Coco Gauff, one of the sensations of tennis this summer.
Gauff, only 15, partnered with her fellow American teenager Caty McNally, 17, to beat Julia Görges and Katerina Siniakova, 7-6 (6), 6-2, as people stood atop benches from adjacent courts — and even peered down from nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium — to get a glimpse of them.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Gauff said.
McNally and Gauff will play No. 9 seeds Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke in the second round, probably on a bigger court.
Gauff, who beat Timea Babos in a second-round singles match on Thursday, will play No. 1 Naomi Osaka on Saturday in one of the most anticipated matchups of the tournament. McNally lost to Serena Williams in their singles match on Wednesday, but won the first set.
Gauff generated a lot of buzz by reaching the fourth round in singles at Wimbledon and has gracefully handled the attention, which only intensified after she won her first two singles matches at the U.S. Open. Wherever she plays now, she is a big attraction.
Some of the doubles match was broadcast live on ESPN, which is unusual for a first-round doubles match, and also for any matches on small courts like Court 5. Fans lined up to get inside Court 5 while others took up positions in the stands of the courts on either side and watched from a distance.
It was an impressive win for the young players, who won the doubles title at the Citi Open in Washington this month. Siniakova is fourth in the women’s doubles rankings.
McNally and Gauff, who trailed by 2-6 in the first-set tiebreaker, welcomed the support.
“It helped us a lot,” McNally said, “and carried us through the second set pretty easily.”
Serena Williams beats Karolina Muchova.
Serena Williams was disappointed in her performance in her three-set win over 17-year-old Caty McNally in the second round. She seemed to take that disappointment out on Karolina Muchova.
Muchova, a 23-year-old ranked 44th, stayed close for the first five games. But serving at 3-3, Muchova struggled to get her first serve in, and Williams took advantage to claim the break. She fought off a break point in the next game to take a 5-3 lead and then broke Muchova at love to take the set, 6-3.
Williams quickly won the first three games of the second set. She was broken to make the score 2-3, but broke Muchova’s serve in the next game. Williams lost only two more points the rest of the match and won, 6-3, 6-2.
In the fourth round on Sunday, she will play No. 22 seed Petra Martic, who defeated No. 12 Anastasija Sevastova, 6-4, 6-3.
In other women’s matches, No. 2 Ashleigh Barty ousted No. 30 Maria Sakkari, 7-5, 6-3; No. 3 Karolina Pliskova outlasted Ons Jabeur, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4; and No. 16 Johanna Konta defeated Zhang Shuai, 6-2, 6-3.
No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 10 Madison Keys also won to set up a blockbuster fourth-round match on Sunday. Svitolina dominated her Ukrainian countrywoman Dayana Yastremska, 6-2, 6-0. Keys needed medical treatment for an illness, but held on to beat her fellow American Sofia Kenin, 6-3, 7-5.
Roger Federer wins easily, at last.
Roger Federer needed only 80 minutes on Friday to change the narrative about his early-match troubles. He had played miserably in the opening sets of his first two matches and did not seem to have an answer for why he had troubles against Sumit Nagal, a qualifier, and Damir Dzumhur.
The response he gave on court Friday was more decisive. Federer overwhelmed Dan Evans of Britain, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, in 1 hour 20 minutes of near flawless tennis. He won 80 percent of the points on his first serve, double-faulted only once and hit 48 winners to account for 87 points won.
Evans was playing on back-to-back days and it may have played a role in the lopsidedness of the match. His second-round match against Lucas Pouille was postponed on Wednesday because of rain and he required 3 hours 10 minutes to beat Pouille on Thursday. (Federer played under the roof on Wednesday afternoon.)
Evans said he was tired and stiff from the day before and said he understood the challenge of scheduling, but complained about being asked to play the first match the next day.
“I thought it was pretty tough to be first up and playing yesterday, to be brutally honest,” he said. “So it was a bit disappointing.”
Evans, who is ranked No. 58, is one of 22 singles players who had to play on back-to-back days. He was asked if he made a request to tournament officials to at least play later on Friday.
“You think a guy who has my ranking has any say in that?” he replied.
Federer acknowledged that his extra day of rest gave him a competitive advantage over Evans, but grew irritated by the suggestion that he has undue influence over the scheduling. He did say his team may have cited a preference for playing in the day session.
“But that doesn’t mean, ‘Roger asks, Roger gets,’” he said, and added, “I’m sick and tired of it, that apparently I call the shots. The tournament and the TV stations do.”
Federer’s opponent in the fourth round will be No. 15 David Goffin, who defeated Pablo Carreño Busta, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9), 7-5.
Alex de Minaur upsets Kei Nishikori.
Alex de Minaur of Australia scored the biggest win of his career, defeating No. 7 Kei Nishikori, 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in the Grandstand.
De Minaur, 20, advanced to the fourth round of a major for the first time and will play Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
De Minaur won his first ATP Tour event earlier this year at Sydney, Australia, his hometown, while he was still 19. He later won the Atlanta tournament in July, but went 2-3 in matches since then, before reaching the U.S. Open.
He beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round and Cristian Garin in the second. Ranked No. 38 in the world, de Minaur was 0-11 against opponents ranked in the top 10 until beating Nishikori, who had made it to the fourth round in his previous six Grand Slam events. But Nishikori committed 60 unforced errors and won only 53 of the 121 points from the baseline.
De Minaur was born in Australia to parents from Uruguay and Spain, and lived there for five years before the family moved to Spain. He returned to Australia in his teenage years and represents Australia in international play.
Who is Dominik Köpfer?
The unlikeliest player into the round of 16 on the men’s side of the U.S. Open is Dominik Köpfer, a 25-year-old left-hander from Furtwangen, Germany.
Köpfer, ranked 118th, won three matches in qualifying, including over former top-50 players Ryan Harrison and Nicolas Mahut. On Friday, Köpfer beat the 17th-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1 and became just the second male qualifier to reach the fourth round at the Open since 2009, joining Denis Shapovalov two years ago. Köpfer is coached by Rhyne Williams, 28, a college standout of the University of Tennessee who played professionally until last year. Köpfer, who played college tennis at Tulane, made his Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon this year and reached the second round.
In the fourth round on Sunday, Köpfer will play fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev.
Naila-Jean Meyers, Ben Rothenberg and Max Gendler contributed reporting.