Novak Djokovic showed why he is the hot favourite to win the US Open title with a rock-solid performance to beat wily Nikolay Davydenko 6-3 6-4 6-2 in the third round of the tournament.
It was the sort of match that could have tripped up the pre-2011 Djokovic but, although it was not easy for the world number one, he never looked in any danger.
Davydenko missed three months of last season with a fractured wrist and he has struggled to get back to the form that made him a fixture in the top 10 for so long.
He came into this tournament unseeded but Djokovic was wary of the threat posed by the Russian because of the quality of tennis he can produce.
Not that the Serb has any reason to fear anyone after a season that has brought nine titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and only two defeats.
Djokovic, who dropped only two games in the previous round against Carlos Berlocq, began well, breaking Davydenko in the fourth game.
He let the Russian back in but Djokovic is made of strong stuff these days and he broke again immediately to lead 5-3 and confidently served out the set.
The opening game of the second was an epic, with Davydenko trailing 0-40 but saving five break points in all to edge ahead.
He had one chance to break Djokovic in the next game but he could not take it and the pressure began to build on the 30-year-old. Twice he survived, rolling back the years with some searing backhands, but serving at 3-3 he could hold off his younger rival no longer, and that was enough for Djokovic to take the set.
The Serb’s powers of defence really are extraordinary and, although Davydenko has made a career of toughing out rallies, his opponent was simply on another level.
A break at the start of the third set for the world number one put him within sight of victory, and that proved to be just about the end of Davydenko’s resistance as the top seed sealed a last 16 place in two hours and seven minutes.
Djokovic, who next faces Alexandr Dolgopolov, finished his on-court interview with a dance but he was not entirely happy with his performance.
He said: “I played well in the important moments and managed to make crucial breaks in all three sets. He was playing very aggressively and I was aware of that before. I was very passive so I wasn’t really happy with the game.
“I didn’t feel great from the back of the court but I knew what to play and that’s what matters the most.”
On 22nd seed Dolgopolov, he added: “He’s an up-and-coming player, he hits the ball really well, really hard. He’s quite similar to Davydenko in that respect. I need to be focused from the first point.”