NEW YORK — Jesse Witten finally ran out of gas at the U.S. Open. But not before putting a scare into the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
Witten, a 2005 University of Kentucky graduate, fought through three qualifying rounds two weeks ago, then pulled upsets in the first and second rounds of the main draw last week before finally colliding with a competitor he couldn't quite handle on Saturday.
Witten, the 276th-ranked player in the world, fought fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic for nearly 3½ hours before falling 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (2) 6-4.
Djokovic said he felt "lucky'' to survive and that at times it was hard to tell who was the No. 4 player in the world. Witten was flattered.
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"Usually, I feel like I don't belong,'' Witten said. "That was my mind-set. I never really said it or tell people that, just in my mind I don't know how good I am, so it's good to kind of see that I can play with these guys, and I kind of belong a little bit here on the stage.''
Then he paused, and said: "Hopefully, I can stay a little longer. This makes me want to keep playing, and now I can afford to keep playing — for the rest of the year, at least.''
Witten was guaranteed $48,000 for making it this far. Next week, He is scheduled to play a Challenger in Tulsa, Okla. It won't be easy to adjust after this ride.
"I've been doing those for six years, unfortunately, because I really would like to do this a lot more often,'' he said. "This is fun. This makes tennis fun. It's a lonely sport when you're down there trying to grind your way up, mentally very challenging.''
What will he miss most when he heads back down to the minor leagues?
"They do your laundry every day here,'' he said. "I don't have to worry about conserving one shirt. I can just go through them and throw them in the laundry bag. It's nice. And you get chauffeured around with the cars. You can't beat this.''