NEW YORK—Novak Djokovic put aside all of it: from his opponent's unheard-of, middle-of-a-set chance to change out of sweat-soaked clothes and shoes to consecutive time violations because he let the serve clock expire to the 16 break points he wasted.
All that mattered, really, was that Djokovic managed to do what Roger Federer could not two nights earlier—beat 55th-ranked John Millman at the U.S. Open.
Djokovic moved a step closer to a third championship at Flushing Meadows, and 14th Grand Slam title overall, by eliminating Millman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to get to the tournament's semi-finals for an 11th appearance in a row.
He sat out last year because of an injured right elbow.
The No. 6-seeded Djokovic, who won Wimbledon in July, had been drawn to face Federer in the quarter-finals.
But Millman scuttled that showdown by stunning the 20-time Grand Slam champ in four sets in the fourth round on a hot and humid evening that Federer said sapped his energy and made it hard to breathe.
“I was, alongside many other people, anticipating the match against Federer,” Djokovic admitted.
This night was cooler, as the temperature dipped into the 70s F, but the humidity was above 80 percent so with Millman drenched, he sought permission for a wardrobe change at 2-2 in the second set.
It was odd enough to see a player be allowed to do that during, instead of after, a set but even odder for it to happen after an even number of games, rather than at an odd-game changeover.
“I was struggling. He was struggling. We were all sweating. Changing a lot of T-shirts, shorts,” noted Djokovic, who next will face 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori tomorrow.
“Just trying to find a way to hang in there.”
When Millman apologized for leaving the court at that juncture, Djokovic replied, “I'm fine to have a little rest,” then sat down on his sideline bench without a shirt on and cooled off.
Earlier yesterday, Nishikori defeated the man he lost to in the final four years ago, Marin Cilic, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4.
Add that to No. 20 Naomi Osaka's 6-1, 6-1 win over unseeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, and Osaka and Nishikori give Japan semi-finalists in both the men's and women's singles at the same Grand Slam tournament for the first time in tennis history.
“It's great to see,” said Nishikori, who is into his third major semi-final (all in New York) but still is in search of his initial Slam trophy.
For Osaka, who is 20, this is her first trip past the fourth round at a major.
She purported to be “freaking out inside” even if it certainly never showed.
She'll face No. 14 Madison Keys of the U.S. tonight. Serena Williams plays No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in the other semi-final.
Keys was one of four American women in the final four a year ago, when she was the runner-up to Sloane Stephens.
She's the only member of that quartet who made it back this year.
Still in search of her first Grand Slam title, Keys reached her third semi-final in the past five majors by using her big-strike game built on serves and forehands to overpower No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-4, 6-3.