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Novak Djokovic maintained his bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title but he had to do it the hard way as he came back from two sets down to beat fellow Serb Laslo Djere.
The three-time US Open champion recovered from losing the opening two sets 4-6 4-6 to break his opponent’s serve in the first game of the third and that provided the catalyst for him to put together a run of which saw him win 6-1 6-1 6-3 to progress to the fourth round.
It was the eighth time in his career the three-time champion Djokovic, who is aiming to match Australian Margaret Court’s tally of major wins, had successfully recovered from such a deficit.
He took a break after losing the second set and after his victory, said: “I did a pep talk in the mirror. It worked.
“I laughed at myself because I was so agitated and annoyed with the game. I had to force myself to lift my spirits.”
Djokovic will next play Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo, the world number 105.
Czech qualifier Jakub Mensik did not hit many happy returns at the US Open as he was crushed by Taylor Fritz on his 18th birthday.
American hope Fritz, the ninth seed, played the ultimate party pooper and gave Mensik just three games in a 6-1 6-2 6-0 victory.
“I felt good. I kind of had a clear plan of what I wanted to do, how I wanted to play him,” said Fritz, 25.
“I returned well. I was moving really well. Yep, I just played a solid match.”
Incredibly, Fritz has dropped just 13 games in his three matches in New York so far. He will face 21-year-old Swiss sensation Dominic Stricker in round four.
The USA are waiting for a first home men’s champion since Andy Roddick 20 years ago, but they already have four in the last 16 with Michael Mmoh potentially a fifth.
They will definitely have at least one quarter-finalist as Tommy Paul beat Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1 6-0 3-6 6-3, and he will face Ben Shelton, who got past Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-4 3-6 6-2 6-0.
Frances Tiafoe, the 10th seed, came from a set down to beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino to set up a clash with Rinky Hijikata of Australia.
“When any of us see the others having good results, it’s motivating,” added Fritz. “I think they’d all say the same thing.
“But it’s motivating. Because if one of us does something, the others not only want to do it too, they now believe that they can also do it because we think we’re as good as each other. If he did this here, then why can’t I?”
He continued: “I think it’s kind of this progression that we’ve had for a while now, why we’re at where we’re at.
“Someone achieves something big, then someone else comes and wants to match him or one-up him, and it’s the cycle that keeps going.
“We’re all such good friends, it’s motivating, for sure.”