Defending U.S. Open champion Novak Djokovic insisted on Sunday that he and Andy Roddick’s once-bitter relationship has mellowed despite their spectacular fall-out in New York four years ago.
Djokovic defeated Roddick in the quarter-finals in 2008, but then used his on-court television interview to lash out at the American who had derided the Serb’s injury record.
Roddick claimed that Djokovic had “faked 16 injuries” in his last-16 win over Tommy Robredo.
“We had that situation. We might have been through some misunderstandings and arguments. It was very emotional I think for both of us as it’s very important tournament,” said world number two Djokovic on Sunday.
“It happens, you know. You learn from those experiences. We have been in a very good relationship ever since and even before that. It’s just that period, that situation. It happens.
”He was actually one of the few top players that was very nice to me when I started playing professionally. He has all my respect.“
After that 2008 clash, Roddick went on to win all of the pair’s next four meetings, although the Serb came out on top in their last two -- at the World Tour Finals last year and at the Olympics in London.
Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, will retire once his New York adventure is over but he could meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic also endured a rocky relationship with world number one Roger Federer during his early days.
In 2006, the Swiss great dismissed the Serb as a ”joke“, claiming Djokovic was abusing the rules by regularly summoning the trainer during a stormy Davis Cup tie.
Djokovic reached the last 16 for the sixth successive year on Sunday, coasting past Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 despite being forced to open up play for the day.
The second-seeded Serb, kicking off the day-seven programme on Arthur Ashe Stadium, didn’t face a single break point in his 97-minute victory, his fourth on the trot against Benneteau, firing 13 aces and 41 winners.
The 25-year-old Djokovic hasn’t dropped serve since the first game of his first-round match and has lost just 14 games in three rounds.
He goes on to face either Swiss 18th seed Stanilas Wawrinka or 14th-seeded Ukrainian Alexander Dolgopolov for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic holds a 10-2 winning record over Wawrinka with the Swiss player’s last victory coming six years ago while he has beaten Dolgopolov twice in two meetings, including in straight sets in the U.S. Open fourth round last year.
”You know, 11:00am, I haven’t played the first match of the day session for a long time, so it’s not that easy,“ said Djokovic.
”Not always the morning person, to be honest. You try to go to bed early and try to wake up early and get your body moving obviously. I wanted to start very sharp from the first point, and I’ve done that.“