Top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic rolled into the US Open fourth round on Friday while Serena Williams and Roger Federer cruised into the last 16 and Kei Nishikori was eliminated.
Djokovic, champion in four of the past five Slams and 16 overall, was less bothered by left shoulder pain that nagged him in the second round in defeating 111th-ranked American Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
“That I managed to play almost pain-free, that’s a big improvement from last match obviously,” Djokovic said. “I didn’t know how my body would react. That was nice.”
Djokovic, who needed treatment throughout his second-round triumph, skipped practice Thursday in favour of shoulder treatment.
“I’m not going to go into the medical details,” he said. “But it definitely was bothering me in the past couple weeks.”
The 32-year-old Serbian, a three-time US Open winner, booked a Sunday showdown with three-time Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, the Swiss 23rd seed who eliminated Italian lucky loser Paolo Lorenzi 6-4, 7-6 (11/9), 7-6 (7/4).
“There’s something with him that when I get into my best game, I know that it’s going to have some big rallies and I’m going to play good tennis,” Wawrinka said.
Djokovic, no worse than a US Open semi-finalist since a third-round exit in 2006, leads Wawrinka 19-5 in their all-time rivalry, but they haven’t met since Wawrinka beat Djokovic in the 2016 US Open final.
“We’ve had some great battles over the years, but especially here,” Djokovic said. “Let the better player win.”