August 30, 2016
Maybe the wince said more than the words.
As he served early on, pain flashed across the face of Novak Djokovic. The wrist again? No, apparently it was the right arm that needed treatment this time.
A medical time-out followed. And much as Novak tried to dismiss the entire episode as precautionary, that wince didn’t lie.
The world number one had a victory to back up his claims that all was well, even if his match against the tall Pole, Jerzy Janowicz, wasn’t won in straight sets.
The final two were taken care of emphatically enough, though there were tense moments before the Serb found his rhythm to romp away 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
Time will tell in this physically demanding fortnight whether Djokovic can manage his aches and pains and still hit top form, or else succumb to his physical troubles and fall away early, as he did at Wimbledon.
Jiri Vesely, the Czech who beat him in Monte Carlo, waits in the next round and will hope to expose any lingering frailties.
But Novak was certainly playing down that time-out. ‘It was just prevention. It’s all good. It’s getting better and better each day.
‘Hopefully as the tournament progresses, I’ll reach my peak. There are periods when you’re not feeling one hundred per cent but I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about this now.
‘I’m just glad to come through this day and let’s keep on moving.’
But there can be no further progress for Richard Gasquet at the US Open 2016, after he was dumped out by the fast-improving Brit, Kyle Edmund.
The erratic Frenchman, who was 13th seed but has always struggled for consistency, fell prey to huge, scything forehands from Edmund.
Gasquet never managed to gain a foothold and went down 2-6, 2-6, 3-6. Maybe one day, when the brilliant Andy Murray finally retires, it will be Edmund who carries British hopes and becomes a serious contender for Grand Slams.
Meanwhile Rafael Nadal began impressively and shows signs of at least living up to his fourth seed status at Flushing Meadows.
The Spaniard missed the French Open and Wimbledon with a wrist injury of his own. But he managed to compete at the Olympics, showing glimmers of his old form without winning a medal in the singles.
He opened up with a convincing 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, although he didn’t want to talk up his chances of further Grand Slam glory too much.
Nadal said: ‘The most important thing is that I am here in New York. Injuries are part of the career. I’ve had a hard time this year.’
Rafa’s compatriot, Garbine Muguruza survived a scare against Elise Mertens of Belgium. The third seed battled through 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 to make it a good day for Spain.
And in one of the matches of the first day, John Isner came from two sets down to triumph in a thrilling all-American five-setter against the 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe.