Novak Djokovic’s requires two more wins at the US Open to secure a career grand slam to join America’s Don Budge (1938) and Australia’s Rod Laver (1962 & 1969) as the only male players to win all four majors in the same season but it won’t be easy with Alexander Zverev standing in his way in the semi-finals, while the world number two, Daniil Medvedev is expected to feature in the final itself.
He’s in tremendous form, he’s been winning a lot, After Wimbledon I don’t think he’s lost a match. Winning gold in the Olympics, winning in Cincinnati pretty comfortably. He’s one of the best players in the world and I’m pumped. The bigger the challenge the more glory in overcoming it Novak Djokovic
Djokovic overcame another opening set blip before containing the Italian sixth seed Matteo Berrettini 5-7 6-2 6-2 6-3 to reach his 12th semi-final at Flushing Meadow and maintain his bid to collect his 21st grand slam trophy and surpass his main rivals Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal with whom he currently shares the record at 20.
“It was a great match. A lot of energy on the court, off the court as well,” Djokovic told the crowd. “Every time we face each other it’s a close battle.
“When I lost the first set I managed to forget about it and move on, kind of be in the moment and I think I was locked in from the beginning of the second set. I took my tennis to a different level. It was the best three sets of tennis I’ve played so far in the tournament, for sure.”
The powerful Berrettini, who lost to Djokovic at the French Open and Wimbledon, came out with all guns blazing to momentarily destabilize his opponent’s rhythm with games reaching deuce several times, but, after an hour, Berrettini finally broke to close out what had been a gruelling first set.
The Italian then decided on a ‘comfort break’ to change clothes which, in hindsight, he might well now regret for on his return, he faced a different and more focused Djokovic who quickly broke him to establish his own momentum and gain a grip on the match which he was not to loosen on his way to his 26th win at this year’s grand slam championships.
Earlier in the day, after two hours, Zverev eventually dismissed Lloyd Harris of South Africa, 7-6(6) 6-3 6-4, recovering from a break down and then saving a set point to set up what should be a blockbuster of a semi-final with the world number one.
“I think the match was a little bit strange,” admitted Zverev, who struck 21 aces in the process, offset by five double faults to reach the last four at Flushing Meadows for the second time. “I think the first set he played very well, didn’t give me a lot of chance on his serve. Yeah, I mean, after that I started to play much better. I think the turning point was the first set, I think that I won it, and it did kind of go my way after that.”
The victory sees the German improve his run to 16 successive wins as he attempts to reach the US Open final for the first time, having just failed by two points last year.
This time he is full of confidence as his recent results show and knows what he has to do, to down Djokovic.
“Against (Djokovic) you prepare that you have to play the best match that you can,” Zverev said. “You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win.
“I mean, most of the time you can’t be perfect. That’s why most of the time people lose to him. Against him, you have to win the match yourself. You have to be the one that is dominating the points. You have to do it with very little unforced errors.
“He is the best player in the world. He is very difficult to beat.”
Djokovic has won six of their previous nine meetings but suffered a major loss when he lost to Zverev in the Olympic semi-finals last month having led by a set and a break.
“He’s in tremendous form, he’s been winning a lot,” Djokovic, already a three-time US Open champion, said of Zverev. “After Wimbledon I don’t think he’s lost a match. Winning gold in the Olympics, winning in Cincinnati pretty comfortably.
“He’s one of the best players in the world and I’m pumped. The bigger the challenge the more glory in overcoming it.”