| Novak Djokovic after beating Julien Benneteau, in New York, on Sunday
New York: Defending champion Novak Djokovic didn’t face a single break point Sunday in a third-round 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 31 Julien Benneteau at the US Open.
Second-seeded Djokovic has lost only 14 games over three matches at Flushing Meadows. He lost the first break point he faced in the opening game of his first match against Paolo Lorenzi. He hasn’t faced another break point since.
Waking up early for the first match of the day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Djokovic finished with 13 aces and 13 winners, with only five unforced errors. He reached the round of 16 for the sixth straight year and will play the winner of a later match between No. 14 Alexandr Dolgopolov and No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka.
Earlier, Roger Federer and Andy Murray remained on course for a semi-final clash at the US Open after they won in contrasting styles on Saturday.
Olympic champion Murray, still seeking his first Grand Slam title after four losses in finals, eked out a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4) victory over No. 30 Feliciano Lopez, who led in each of the three tiebreakers before faltering. “Could have gone either way,” Murray acknowledged. “It was very hot and humid in the middle part of the match. I was struggling a bit with that.”
Murray won his 250th career match on hard court and improved to 104-65 in tiebreakers. His next match is against No. 15 Milos Raonic, a 6-3, 6-0, 7-6 (3) winner over American James Blake. The man he beat for the gold at the Olympics, and lost to in the Wimbledon final, Federer, was barely bothered while dismissing No. 25 Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Federer next will take on American Mardy Fish, who defeated Gilles Simon of France 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych was a 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over American Sam Querrey, while No. 11 Nicolas Almagro defeated another local, 19-year-old Jack Sock, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1. That sets up an interesting encounter between Berdych and Almagro in the next round.
Other men’s winners Saturday included No. 12 Marin Cilic, who defeated No. 17 Kei Nishikori; and 50th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia, who beat No. 32 Jeremy Chardy.
In women’s action, Serena Williams overran Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-0, winning the last eight games of the match. Among Saturday’s other women’s matches, sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany put in an eye-catching performance by cruising past Belarussian Olga Govortsova 6-1, 6-2.
Four-time Grand Slam tournament winner and former No. 1-ranked player Kim Clijsters headed into retirement after she and Bob Bryan lost their second-round mixed doubles match against Makarova and Bruno Soares. Clijsters announced months ago the US Open would be her last tournament, and she already was out of singles and women’s doubles.
Clijsters bid adieu to the sport with her husband and four-year-old daughter sitting in the stands at Court 17. “I’ve been telling her I’m going to be home a lot when this tournament is completely done,” Clijsters said. “I don’t think she understands the meaning of the word ‘retirement’.”
Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic overcame a poor start, 56 unforced errors and a partisan crowd to beat 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2. Ivanovic also eliminated Stephens in the third round at Flushing Meadows a year ago.
Meanwhile, Sania Mirza and her American partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands entered the women’s doubles third round with a straight-set win on a mixed day for the Indians. The 13th seeded combination of Sania and Bethanie got the better of Croatian Darija Jurak and Hungary’s Katalin Marosi 6-4, 6-2.
Another Indian who enjoyed a winning day at the event was Leander Paes. The veteran and his Russian partner Elena Vesnina, who are seeded third, defeated the American-Filipino combine of Raquel Kops-Jones and Treat Conrad Huey 6-4, 7-5. In doubles, Paes and Radek Stepanek defeated Jesse Levine and Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-3 to breeze in the fourth round.
There was disappointment for Rohan Bopanna, who, along with his Chinese partner Jie Zheng, bowed out of the mixed doubles event after losing 2-6, 5-7 to the Australian-Dutch duo of Anastasia Rodionova and Jean-Julien Rojer.