World No.1 Novak Djokovic reached his ninth straight US Open quarter-final on Sunday but only after surviving a scare against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
The 2011 champion won 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-3 to set-up a last-eight clash against Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in what will be his 26th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.
Djokovic gave up a 4-2 lead in the second set and saw an early break clawed back in the fourth by the 23rd seeded former junior footballer, who had the crowd on its feet with his repertoire of stinging forehand drives.
The Serb was also broken when serving for the match at 5-2.
Lopez, 33, reached his first US Open quarter-final at the 14th attempt with a 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win over Italy’s Fabio Fognini, the conqueror of Rafael Nadal in the previous round.
Now Lopez is looking forward to his clash with world No.1 Djokovic, the 2011 champion, although he has lost all five meetings with the Serb.
He has only ever taken one set off Djokovic and that was in their first meeting at the 2007 Australian Open.
“I will be 34 in September so it’s a great feeling to be playing like this and reaching my first US Open quarter-final,”Lopez said.
“If I play Novak then I don’t know what I will have to do to beat him.
“But I want to play him – he’s the best in the world.”
The other quarter-final in the men’s top half will see defending champion Marin Cilic face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Cilic made the last-eight for the fourth time with a 6-3 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 win over France’s Jeremy Chardy on Sunday.
Cilic, the Croatian ninth seed, took his record in New York to 11 successive wins after capturing his maiden Grand Slam title in the city last year.
But the 26-year-old had to overcome an injury scare in the second set to stay alive in the tournament when he rolled his right ankle.
“I twisted my ankle in the second set but I tried not to let it affect my movement,” he said.
“In the first few games of the third set, I was conscious of it but after that I didn’t have trouble with it.”
Cilic fired 23 aces and 52 winners in his win over Chardy, one of four Frenchmen to make the last-16.
Four of those aces came in the third set tiebreak.
“I took the joker from Goran in the tiebreak,” he said, explaining his inspiration from coach and big-hitting former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic.
French 19th seed Tsonga reached his second quarter-final in New York with a 6-4 6-3 6-4 win over unseeded compatriot Benoit Paire, the man who opened up their section of the draw by knocking out fourth seed Kei Nishikori in the first round.
The 30-year-old Tsonga, who made the semi-finals at the French Open in June, did not face a single break point against Paire.
He has now held all 56 service games at the tournament.
Cilic holds a 4-1 career lead over Tsonga in main tour matches, winning the pair’s last three without dropping a set.
Tsonga’s only win was in the 2011 Cincinnati Masters.
“I have the feeling that I am playing my best tennis and I hope this will continue,” said Tsonga, who made the quarter-finals four years ago.
“It’s been a great week. I hope for the same again in the next few days.”