Top-ranked Novak Djokovic wards off upset bid

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NEW YORK (AP) - Novak Djokovic put his hand to his ear to revel in the cheers pouring down from the stands.

It was only one set, but the world’s top-ranked player is seasoned enough in the role of favorite these days to realize that warding off that first challenge from an underdog is usually enough to avoid an upset.

Djokovic survived a marathon tiebreaker, fighting off four set points, then cruised the rest of the way to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

“I knew in the back of my mind I needed to hang in there and try to wait for the opportunities,” Djokovic said. “After I won the first set, I felt that I have a little mental advantage over him, that I’m in control.”

The Serb won 7-6 (14), 6-4, 6-2 on Monday. Countryman Janko Tipsarevic watched the tiebreaker before his own post-match news conference with the interest of a friend and a soon-to-be foe.

The first time in the Open era that two Serbian men have made the quarterfinals of a major tournament, they’ll play each other.

After Djokovic won the opening set against the 22-year-old Dolgopolov and his unpredictable game, Tipsarevic was quite sure who he’d be facing next.

“I’m not going to try and play like Dolgopolov. I don’t think even he knows what’s going to happen the next point,” Tipsarevic said. “I mean, it’s understandable. Alexandr is playing really good; he’s a new opponent for Novak. He’s not an everyday opponent. He never played Novak before and it’s windy out there.”

The 20th-seeded Tipsarevic reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal by beating Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-2. He and Djokovic are frequent practice partners.

“Even if I’m not friends with Novak, I would know his game since he’s, you know, going out of your fridge in Serbia, basically,” Tipsarevic said with a grin of his buddy’s popularity and ubiquity in their home country.

“In a way it can be easier on us maybe knowing where the other one is going to serve when it’s important or whatever,” he added. “But those things are maybe 2 percent of the overall outcome of the match. Who plays better tennis is going to win.”

Both men are playing the best tennis of their lives this year. Tipsarevic insisted he was most excited about achieving his goal of ascending to a top-20 ranking.

“I know it’s maybe stupid, but I’m honestly only focusing now on my ranking,” he said. “I don’t know why. I am like that. When I take something, I just _ when I was a baby, I take a doll, and until I break it I don’t want a new one. I’m just now focused. I’m looking that there is 360 points waiting for me (on) the other side of the net, and I need to beat whoever (that is).”

Even if it’s his top-ranked compatriot.

Djokovic fell behind 0-4 in his first-set tiebreaker. But he regained momentum when his shot ticked off the top of the net and over, and the 22nd-seeded Dolgopolov’s backhand crosscourt volley landed just wide.

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