By Frank Pingue
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic was feeling right at home on the Arthur Ashe Stadium hardcourt on Monday, which may be bad news for anyone hoping to deny the defending champion from adding to his Grand Slam tally.
The top-seeded Serbian said the surface of the blue court during his 6-4 6-1 6-4 first round win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena was very similar to last year when he picked up his third U.S. Open title.
“I didn’t notice any significant difference. It is cooler in terms of weather than it was last year,” said Djokovic, who has won four of the last five Grand Slam titles.
“I really like the conditions of the balls, the speed of the court, the weather is fantastic. You know, it’s just very enjoyable.”
Djokovic had never before faced Carballes Baena and spent the opening set figuring out his opponent before cruising home and into the second round where he will face another first-time opponent in Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.
The 32-year-old Serbian, who has reached at least the semi-finals in every U.S. Open he has competed in since 2006, will obviously be a favourite in his next match but is not taking anything for granted.
“I have people, analysts in my team that are responsible for providing data and information and video and data analysis on every next opponent that I play against,” said Djokovic.
“I have to do my homework. I think it’s something that is so logical and so normal. You know, it’s part of, in a way, my job as well to get myself ready for what’s coming up.”
Djokovic has a tough draw given both in-form Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev and five-times champion Roger Federer are among his projected opponents en route to the final.
The world number one said his mindset at this point in his career has not changed given he is two Grand Slam titles shy of Rafa Nadal on the all-time list and four away from matching Roger Federer’s record tally of 20.
“It’s no different approach than it was in the past ten years. Very motivated, very focused, very determined to do well,” said Djokovic.
“I have been in this particular situation many times in my career, and I know, you know, what feels comfortable for me, what I need to do in order to get far in the tournament.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Ian Ransom)