Reigning champion Novak Djokovic said he felt "almost pain free" as he strolled into the US Open last 16 on Friday with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Denis Kudla. Novak Djokovic struggled with a left shoulder injury in Wednesday's second-round win, but the top seed looked far more at ease against 111th-ranked Kudla as he advanced to a showdown with 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka. "I managed to play almost pain free. That's a big improvement from last match," Novak Djokovic said. "Obviously I didn't know how my body would react and I'm glad to just finish the match tonight. I'm not going to go into medical details, but it was definitely bothering me the last couple weeks."
"I didn't practice yesterday. I just wanted to give myself time and do everything possible to recover," he added.
Djokovic is attempting to become the first back-to-back men's champion here since Roger Federer won five titles in a row from 2004 to 2008.
He will meet Wawrinka, the man who beat him in the US Open final three years ago, for a place in the last eight.
"We've had some great battles over the years, all over the world and especially here," Djokovic said of his upcoming clash with the Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion.
"He's a three-time Grand Slam champion, someone that possesses a game with a lot of power, a lot of quality. Let the better player win."
"There's something with him that when I get into my best game, I know that it's going to have some big rallies and I'm going to play good tennis," Wawrinka said.
Djokovic, no worse than a US Open semi-finalist since a third-round exit in 2006, leads Wawrinka 19-5 in their all-time rivalry, but they haven't met since Wawrinka beat Djokovic in the 2016 US Open final.