NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic did not seek to keep his thoughts to himself on court Saturday, the way he mostly did through his first two US Open matches. Instead, he let it all out, slapping his chest or sneering with a fist raised to celebrate success, pointing to his ear to ask the crowd for noise.
This was the Djokovic everyone is so accustomed to seeing — yes, winning on the Grand Slam stage, of course, as he always does in this magical season, but also animated and into it, encouraging the spectators to join him for the ride on his path toward tennis history.
Taking another step in his bid to complete the first calendar-year Slam by a man in more than a half-century, Djokovic moved into the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the 14th consecutive appearance, coming back to beat Kei Nishikori 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.
Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia who is ranked No. 1, is now 24-0 in the sport’s four most important events this season, having won the Australian Open in February, the French Open in June and Wimbledon in July. The last man to go 4 for 4 at the majors was Rod Laver in 1969; Steffi Graf was the last woman, in 1988.
After eliminating a couple of inexperienced opponents ranked 121st and 145th, Djokovic faced someone with a far better resume in Nishikori, who was the runner-up at the 2014 US Open and has been as high as No. 4.
Here, though, was the problem for Nishikori heading into this encounter: He’d lost his last 16 matches against Djokovic. And while Nishikori, to loud roars from the stands in Arthur Ashe Stadium, stole the first set, the march to No. 17 in a row was soon in progress.