World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had recently said that the courts at Flushing Meadows - where the Western & Southern Open is taking place - were "20 to 30% faster than usual". To add to that, the Serb was also suffering from serious neck pain at the start of the tournament, making some question whether he was still the title favorite.
However, Novak Djokovic has turned the tables on everyone yet again. He has shaken off the post-lockdown rust to breeze through to the semifinals, where he will face Roberto Bautista Agut.
By his own admission, the Serb took some time to adjust to the surface. But now that the 17-time Major champion has found his range on the quick surface, he looks nearly invincible again.
Given that the 2020 US Open will be played on the same courts as the Western & Southern Open, it is safe to say that the hardcourt Slam will also play faster than usual. And recently, tennis commentator Brad Gilbert had a dialogue with Andy Roddick about how that could affect Novak Djokovic's chances.
Novak Djokovic forces you to either stay in a rally or force the issue from very average positions: Andy Roddick
Twitter can be quite the place for an insightful tennis discussion, or so Brad Gilbert would tell you after he replied to one of his followers' tweets.
"It's just demoralizing when 'Djoker' is tracking everything down. No where to go and he just suffocates you," the tweet read.
Most would agree whole-heartedly with that sentiment. Novak Djokovic is famous for outlasting his opponents in rallies by making them play a slew of shots and then pouncing on even a remotely short ball.
"He shrinks the court like nobody," Gilbert said with an emoji, noting how good the World No. 1 is at turning defense into attack.
In a reply to Brad Gilbert, 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick broke down the Serb's mantra to tactically outfox his opponents.
"There’s just nowhere to attack him on a fast court," Roddick's reply read. "Only helps his serve and he keeps the ball so firm/low on BH that it’s tough to create. Forces you to either stay in a rally (also a bad option) or force the issue from very average positions."
As Roddick implied, even when players hit the fuzz off the ball in their bid to get it past Novak Djokovic, the Serb sends it back at an uncomfortable height to regain the ascendancy in the rally. A faster court wouldn't exactly be a disadvantage for the World No. 1 since his foot speed can help him stay in rallies longer than most, and also because his own serve would acquire a little extra oomph.
In that sense, Novak Djokovic might benefit from the new court provider that has been signed up for this year's US Open. The USTA recently switched courts from DecoTurf - their partner since the last 42 years - to Sport Group's Laykold.
The players have been offered the chance to get used to these new courts at the Cincinnati Masters. As per the COO of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the new courts have a Court Pace Rating (CPR) of around 43.
According to traditional court pace classifications, a CPR between 40 and 44 is "medium fast". The new courts, which are slightly faster than the courts of the past editions, would likely make Novak Djokovic an even bigger favorite for the US Open title than he already was.Published 28 Aug 2020, 23:00 IST