Novak Djokovic Cruises In First US Open Match Since 2021 Final To Return To Top


With his return to the US Open, Novak Djokovic will once again hold the top spot in the rankings.

After being absent from the competition the previous year, Djokovic returned this year and defeated Frenchman Alexandre Muller with ease on Monday night, winning 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion was forced to wait while Coco Gauff won in three sets to start the evening session at Arthur Ashe Stadium and while a ceremony commemorating 50 years of equal prize money at the US Open was taking place.

“Well, I knew it was going to be a late night for me, late start of the match,” Djokovic said. “Nevertheless, I mean, I was excited to go out on the court. I didn’t care if I started after midnight because I was looking forward to this moment for a few years, to be out on the biggest stadium in our sport, the loudest stadium in our sport, playing the night session.”

Due to his lack of a COVID-19 vaccination, Djokovic was denied entry to the United States last year.

The Serbian player’s 2021 final loss to Daniil Medvedev prevented him from completing the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969. Monday’s match was his first at Flushing Meadows since that defeat.

As he came out of the tunnel and onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, the 36-year-old received a round of ovation from the crowd, letting him know they had missed him.

As he embraced the applause of a record crowd of more than 30,000 people, which included former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, it was evident that he had missed them as well.

“I was excited to go out on the court; it has been a couple of years, so to come in front of you guys is always a pleasure,” Djokovic told the New York crowd. “Thanks for coming out, and thanks to all the people who stayed to almost 1 a.m.

“Night sessions at Arthur Ashe are always something special.”

Before Muller finally scored, the No. 2 seed won the first eight games and the first set in just 23 minutes. Muller raised his arms in celebration after narrowing the deficit to 2-1 in the second set.

“I think the performance explains how I felt tonight, particularly in the first two sets. It was kind of lights-out tennis, really, almost flawless, perfect first set,” Djokovic said. “I’ve probably had the answer for every shot he had in his book.”

In first-round matches at the US Open, Djokovic improved to 17-0, securing his return to the top spot on September 11. Because he was unable to compete last year and had no ranking points to defend, Djokovic merely needed to go to the second round to ensure that he would replace Carlos Alcaraz as the number one player. Djokovic’s record-extending 390th week at the top of the rankings will be reached this week.

Alcaraz, who defeated Djokovic in a thrilling Wimbledon final in July, will begin his championship defense against Dominik Koepfer of Germany on Tuesday.

Next up for Djokovic is the Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who defeated American Ethan Quinn in straight sets.