Before Novak Djokovic enters Arthur Ashe's stadium Friday night for his third round match with Dennis Kudla, the defending US Open champion stopped for a standard interview before the match in the player's tunnel.
Tom Rinaldi of ESPN asked about the condition of the left shoulder of the itch that had erupted 48 hours earlier on the very court he was about to pick up.
Djokovic sharply replied, "I'm here.
There were signs that the problem of the injury was present at the beginning of the match: Djokovic struck with two hands at the top backhands, one of the most reliable weapons, uncharacteristically long. He backed away to remove his leading hand from the rocket, cutting off an abnormal number of slices. Despite those noticeable differences, Djokovic is still stepping on the big stage with the same passion, healthy protection and willingness under pressure viewers have come to expect from the world # 1
The best seed made the necessary adjustments against Kudla, who brought his own court speed to participate in cat and mouse rallies. Djokovic eventually found new gears when needed, overcoming the difficulties he faced to beat the American, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. He saved all seven rest points he faced to knock out Kudla for the second straight helmet, winning, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, in the second round of Wimbledon on his way to his 15th main title.
The heat on Djokovic's health will only turn from here, as the 32-year-old launches an appetizing clash with Stan Vavrinka. Djokovic dominated their head-to-head series, holding a record of 19-5, but Vavrinka was able to surpass the Serbian three times on his way to experiencing the glory of the Grand Slam: the Australian Open in 2014 and two finals – the French in 2015 Open and 2016 US Open – the last time they got up.
How he felt after Friday's victory, Djokovic told Rinaldi: "I was able to play with almost no pain. This is a big improvement from the last game. I didn't know how my body would react. I'm just glad. "
Djokovic is likely to need a healthy backhand to counter the aggressive Swiss style. Wawrinka has a powerful one-handed hand and is equally comfortable walking with her toes. The 24-year-old has shown that she is able to light a fire in the final stages of tournaments, generating a huge pace to beat the opposition, but can also go out of track when finding a court. Flushing Meadows Permanent Performer for nine weeks – two shows, backhand frequency at Wavrinka with Djokovic surely will
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