Tennis: Novak Djokovic survives huge scare to advance at US Open

Novak Djokovic has seen his US Open hopes nearly sunk by a fellow Serb, while defending women's champion Iga Swiatek sailed into the fourth round of the year's final Grand Slam, as an American wave swept across Flushing Meadows.

On the ropes and reeling after dropping the opening two sets of his match to compatriot Laslo Djere, a tenacious Djokovic lifted himself up off the floor, as he has done so many times before, to claim a 4-6 4-6 6-1 6-1 6-3 win.

It marked the 38th time Djokovic has won a five-setter and kept alive the 36-year-old's quest for a fourth US Open crown that would pull him level with Margaret Court's record haul of 24 Grand Slams.

"I hope you enjoyed the show, it was not so enjoyable for me especially in the first two sets," Djokovic told the crowd. "It was one of the toughest matches I have played here in many years."

While Djokovic needed almost four hours to get the job done, Swiatek needed only 49 minutes to book her spot.

The Pole showed her best friend on Tour Kaja Juvan no mercy, thrashing the Slovenian qualifier 6-0 6-1.

Americans Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton all moved safely through to the last 16, raising hopes of a first homegrown men's champion in two decades.

Iga Swiatek.
Iga Swiatek. Photo credit: Getty Images

It has been 78 Grand Slams since Andy Roddick won the 2003 US Open and there is growing belief that the talent is there to end the drought of American champions.

Ninth seed Fritz is seen as the main US contender for the title and he blasted his way into the fourth round with a 6-1 6-2 6-0 demolition of 18-year-old Czech qualifier Jakub Mensik.

Tiafoe, who electrified the tournament with his run to the semi-finals last year, is once again exciting the home crowd, advancing with a 4-6 6-2 6-3 7-6(6) victory over crafty French veteran Adrian Mannarino.

Fourteenth seed Paul overcame a third-set hiccup to dispatch Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1 6-0 3-6 6-3 and will next face 20-year-old compatriot Shelton, a 6-4 3-6 6-2 6-0 winner over Aslan Karatsev.

"Tremendous," said Tiafoe, summing up the US results so far. "We're going to continue to do so.

"This is a group that had a lot of ability. Always had a lot of talent.

"You look at a guy, Tommy Paul, took him a while to get going. He believes more than anybody right now.

"Taylor obviously has been playing well for a while. Myself.

"Ben, he's had an up-and-down year, but now he's playing great tennis.

"It's good to see a lot of players playing well. Hopefully we just keep doing it."

It was not as productive a day for U.S. women, with only Coco Gauff moving on, and the sixth seed needed to dig deep to keep from joining Jennifer Brady, Taylor Townsend and Bernarda Pera at the exit.

Coming off titles in Washington and Cincinnati, Gauff had to work hard to see off Belgium's Elise Mertens 3-6 6-3 6-0.

Gauff could yet have plenty of company with Jessica Pegula, Madison Keys and Peyton Stearns all playing third round matches on Saturday.

Caroline Wozniacki won the battle of US Open comeback queens, rallying to beat Brady 4-6 6-3 6-1.

Wozniacki and Brady have been the feel-good stories at Flushing Meadows, and their storylines converged on a sun-kissed Arthur Ashe Stadium court with the 33-year-old Dane continuing her dazzling return by reaching the last 16.

It seemed improbable just weeks ago that ex-world number one Wozniacki, back playing competitive tennis after a three-year break to raise a family, and Brady, rising star and Australian Open finalist in 2021 but sidelined for two years with knee and foot injuries, would face each other at a major.

But 28-year-old Brady, just four tournaments into her comeback, and Wozniacki, playing in her third, looked as if they had never been away by treating fans to some quality tennis that at times had the crowd on their feet.