Novak Djokovic began his quest for a 21st Slam with a four-set win over spirited teenager Holger Rune in the first round of the 2021 US Open. Djokovic overcame a mid-match blip to beat the Dane 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-1 in just above two hours.
Rune put his heart and soul into the match but couldn't sustain his level physically. The 18-year-old suffered from cramps in the final two sets, which greatly limited his movement.
Nevertheless, Djokovic did what was needed of him to book his place in the second round, where he will face Tallon Griekspoor. On that note, here are three talking points from the match:
#1 Novak Djokovic yet again faced a hostile crowd
As has been the norm in recent months, Novak Djokovic was met with a partisan crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. A majority of the spectators were rooting for Rune, either because he was putting on a show or that they wanted Djokovic to lose.
In fact, the fans seemed to be cheering for every error or double fault Djokovic coughed up. While New York is known to usually have a boisterous crowd, on Tuesday they made their anti-Djokovic sentiment felt on several occasions, sometimes even heckling him.
Many observers, including Novak Djokovic himself, felt that the crowd were booing him repeatedly. But some of the fans who were present in the crowd later claimed on social media they were merely chanting 'Rune' which sounded like 'boo'.
Djokovic managed to shake off all of it to end up victorious, as he usually does. But it remains to be seen if the Serb will get greater support in his upcoming matches as he inches closer to the Calendar Slam.
#2 Novak Djokovic has won 61 consecutive first-round matches at Slams
Novak Djokovic's win over Holger Rune was his 61st consecutive first-round win at Grand Slam level. The last time that Djokovic lost his opener at a Major was way back in 2006, at the Australian Open.
His first-round record at the US Open is even more impressive; Djokovic is yet to drop an opening-round fixture at New York in 16 editions of the event. And he has never lost in the first round in 33 combined editions of Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
The Serb, however, has lost twice in the first round of the Australian Open - once in 2005 and then in 2006.
#3 Novak Djokovic's serve went missing in the second set
Novak Djokovic's serve is one of his most improved shots, but it let him down in the second set against Rune. While Djokovic did claw his way back from a 3-0 deficit, his serve ended up making things tough for him throughout that one hour of play.
The World No. 1 coughed up five double faults in the second set to hand Rune a lifeline. In stark contrast, Djokovic made just two double faults combined in the other three sets.
He also conceded three break points in that set, and was broken twice. The Serb didn't face a single break point for the rest of the match.
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But Djokovic managed to regroup in the third set, and by the end of the match he looked considerably fitter than his young opponent. He'll need more of that physical and mental resilience going forward, as the obstacles in his path to the Calendar Slam are likely to get tougher.