NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic overcame Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-0 in the U.S. Open first round on Tuesday in punishing temperatures that prompted officials to observe a heat rule for men’s singles matches for the first time.
The players took a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets to help them cope with temperatures climbing above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).
The pair, who were not allowed to speak to their coaches during the break, spent the downtime side-by-side, “naked in the ice baths,” Djokovic said in a post-match broadcast interview.
“It was quite a magnificent feeling, I must say,” he added.
After claiming the first set, a visibly exhausted Djokovic smashed his racket as Fucsovics led 3-2 in the second. In between the action, both players draped themselves in ice towels and at one point Djokovic sat shirtless in his seat.
“I was obviously hoping and praying that I’ll get to feel better as the match progresses,” Djokovic told reporters after the match.
“Obviously I felt better, especially after that 10-minute break. For the first three sets, it was a survival mode for both of us.”
The Serb came roaring back in the third set, clawing his way from 3-1 down before sweeping Fucsovics in the fourth.
“I had to find a way to dig myself out of the trouble,” Djokovic said.
“I think that was a turning point. 4-3 in the third when he was serving, I managed to play a good game.”
Djokovic was back at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2016 after claiming his fourth Wimbledon title this year and completing a sweep of Masters series events.
Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris