Easy to overlook Novak Djokovic
NEW YORK -- Novak Djokovic has the advantage of being a top seed at the US Open who is inexplicably under the radar. It may have to do with the interest in defending champion Andy Murray, seeded third this year, or the anticipation of a potential quarterfinal between two old favorites, No. 7 Roger Federer and surging No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
Although he isn't making headlines, don't think that Djokovic isn't expecting to be in the mix for the title.
"I love playing on these courts, especially Arthur Ashe," Djokovic said. "It's a Grand Slam. And Grand Slams always demand the best out of every player. You know, top players are always saying how important it is for them to always perform their best and set their form for Grand Slams, because these are the most important tournaments we have in the sport, and this is where you want to win trophies."
Djokovic capably arrives at his fourth-round berth without having dropped a set, and doubly rested from staying with a friend in New Jersey and away from the frenetic energy of Manhattan.
On Tuesday, Djokovic will take on unseeded Spaniard Marcel Granollers, who has played three straight five-set matches to reach the fourth round. On Sunday, Granollers took out the last remaining American man in the draw, Tim Smyczek, 6-4, 4-6, 0-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Djokovic, who said he wants to "spend as less time on court as possible," has made quick work of his opponents. The top seed has dispatched Ricardas Berankis, Benjamin Becker and Joao Sousa in three sets, needing only one tiebreaker against Becker.
Given the resurgence of Nadal and the emergence of Murray, it's easy to overlook just how consistent the 26-year-old Djokovic has been in the Grand Slam events. You would have to go back to the 2010 French Open to find a major where he didn't reach a semifinal. Since then, he has won three Australian Opens, the 2011 Wimbledon and US Open.
"What I find essential for success in today's tennis is the transition from defense to offense," Djokovic said. "So I think Nadal, Murray, myself, a few other players, they have this great transition. Federer, of course, with the variety. The game has evolved so much. You need to be complete player in order to be at the top."
Does Granollers have that kind of game? At 27, he is 43rd in the world and has won four singles titles on the ATP Tour, three of those on clay. He's found more success over the years as a doubles player.
Djokovic has the edge in experience, and on the hard court surface. If he wins, he will be through to the quarterfinals, without much US Open fanfare.
"This is the last Grand Slam of the year," Djokovic said. "I have high expectations for myself."