NEW YORK, September 7 – Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic advanced to a US Open quarter-final against revenge-minded Frenchman Gael Monfils on Monday by defeating US 19th seed Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.Saying he is playing his best tennis of the year and gaining confidence while improving with every match, Djokovic moved one victory from a fourth consecutive trip to the semi-finals on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
"This is as well as I’ve played this year," he said. "I’m happy with the way things are moving on for me. It’s a very encouraging fact at this stage of the tournament that I’m raising my game and feeling more comfortable on the court."
Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, tries to take the next step Wednesday against 17th seed Gael Monfils, who beat countryman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.
"If he starts playing well he can beat anyone because he is so fast and so athletic and strong that he can get a lot of balls back," Djokovic said of Monfils. "I just have to be ready and patient and wait for my chances."
Monfils is 0-4 against Djokovic but pushed him to five sets in round one of the 2005 US Open, to three sets at the 2008 Beijing Olympic quarter-finals and into a third-set tie-breaker before dropping last year’s Paris indoor final.
"I have revenge to take. He won against me at home," Monfils said. "This time I hope to win."
Swedish fifth seed Robin Soderling, the French Open runner-up who snapped Roger Federer’s run of 23 Grand Slam semi-finals in a row in a quarter-final on the Paris red clay, booked a berth in the US Open’s last eight as well.
Soderling fired 15 aces in defeating 21st seed Albert Montanes of Spain 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 and could next see Federer, who has a 12-1 career record against Soderling and ousted the Swede in last year’s US Open quarter-finals.
Swiss second seed Federer, a 16-time Grand Slam champion seeking his sixth US Open title and seventh final in a row, was set to face Austrian 13th seed Jurgen Melzer in a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Montanes fired a forehand winner in the fifth game to win the only break point of the first set, the only one he would have against Soderling all day.
But an errant backhand by the Spaniard handed Soderling the only break of the second set in the fourth game and the Swede seized command from there, dominating the third and breaking in the fifth and last games of the last set.
"I played very well the longer the match went," Soderling said. "After the first set I played better. It was a good match for me."
Djokovic was the 2007 US Open runner-up and lost in the semi-finals the past two years, all three defeats coming at the hands of Federer, a potential semi-final opponent again this year.
Fish surrendered two early breaks to drop the first set and another in the fifth game of the second set, but responded in the next game by earning three break points, only to see Djokovic save them all and hold to 4-2.
"Whenever I had a chance I used it. I was returning really well, making him play an extra shot, and I was serving well," Djokovic said.
"I was using my serve in important moments extremely well, not giving him a chance to come to the net and be more aggressive."
Djokovic held twice more to claim the second set and broke Fish to open the third set, then again in the fifth game and seventh games to end matters after one hour and 50 minutes, improving to 6-0 against Fish.
"Novak played great," Fish said. "He kicked my butt."
Monfils became the first Frenchman in the US Open’s last eight since Arnaud Clement in 2000. His only prior Slam quarter-finals were in 2008 semi-final and 2009 last-eight French Open runs, each ended by Federer.
Gasquet double faulted to give Monfils the only first-set break in the third game and surrendered a decisive break to Monfils in the 11th game of set two. Gasquet led 5-2 in the third but Monfils won the last five games of the match.
"My plan was to try to break him physically and break him in the head," Monfils said. "I think I did pretty good."