Novak Djokovic made a winning return to the U.S. Open, fighting through extreme heat that caused him to feel sick during his match to beat Márton Fucsovics in four sets.
It was a tough one, until Djokovic dominated after the players were allowed to leave the court for 10 minutes following the third and fourth sets.
Once they returned, the No. 6 seed finished off a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory in 2 hours, 59 minutes.
Asked after the match what he did during the 10-minute offered to him and Fucsovics after the third set, Djokovic said: "It was funny because Marton and I were [in] an ice bath right next to each other so we had the two ice baths, we were naked in the ice baths.
"It was quite wonderful feeling you know, battling with a guy for two and a half hours and then you get into the locker room and you haven't finished the match and you're naked in the ice bath. It was quite a magnificent feeling I must say."
Heatwave conditions in New York were starting to take its toll on players, with four of the eight early men's first round matches ended in retirements.
Temperatures were soaring to 38 degrees by mid-afternoon, made worse by suffocating humidity.
Djokovic admitted that he wasn't having his best day and that he – like everyone else – was struggling with the heat.
"I'm actually praying that the next moment I get to feel better because I definitely wasn't feeling great for most of the three sets. But you have these kind of days, you have these kind of matches.
"I'm not the only one. A lot of players struggle today. You just have to deal with it. We played a three hour match. Not easy but it is what it is.
"I'll take this win and I wanna thank everyone for their support and patience to stay to watch the match until the end."
Djokovic missed the U.S. Open last year because of an elbow injury and was playing his first match in Flushing Meadows since losing the 2016 final to Stan Wawrinka.
Roger Federer cruises in US Open heat
Roger Federer improved to 18-0 in first-round matches at the U.S. Open and took one step toward a potential quarterfinal showdown against Novak Djokovic.
Dressed from head to toe in a plum-colored outfit, the 20-time major champion delivered 14 aces and never was in any trouble during a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over 117th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night.
Federer saved the first eight break points he faced before finally faltering by pushing a forehand long on the ninth, losing serve for the only time while trying to close out the match at 5-2 in the third set. By then, the match was 1 hour, 45 minutes old — and it would last another seven minutes.
The No. 2-seeded Federer is seeking his sixth title at the U.S. Open, but first in a decade.
He would face 13-time major champion Djokovic if each wins three more matches.
- with AP