Novak Djokovic was once against pushed to the limit and once again he rose up to the challenge Friday night at the US Open.
Djokovic locked up with the man who ended his Golden Slam hopes in Tokyo, Alexander Zverev. And this time Djokovic got his revenge, outlasting the German in five sets 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in just over 3.5 hours. He’s now just three sets from an historic Calendar Slam.
“I know that people would like to hear me talk about it but there is not much to talk about,” Djokovic said. “There is only one match left, all in. I’m going to put my heart and my soul and my body and my head into that one. I’m going to treat the next match like it is the last match of my career.”
For the fourth time of the tournament and 10th time this year, Djokovic dropped the opening set in rather quick and routine fashion. Zverev was again on point with his serve while Djokovic was in the negative on winners-to-errors.
But the pattern continued. Djokovic rose up in the second breaking right away. He built the lead and ran away with the set.
In the third, it was more of the same. Zverev was having issues with his serve. Djokovic kept coming up on his.
Serving 4-5, the two played a game of incredible points, capped by the longest rally of the event at 53 shots won by Zverev. Djokovic, though, would shrug it off and win the next point to take a two sets to one lead.
Zverev wouldn’t slump grabbing an early break for force a fifth. But once again, momentum would swing and this time Djokovic jumped all over the 24-year-old going up 5-0 to eventually take it.
Zverev’s 16-match win streak is over and he falls to 0-11 against Top 10 players in Slams. His last three losses in Slams (and last two at the US Open) have come in five sets.
“It was a great battle. Kind of a little bit disappointed with the start of the fifth set,” Zverev said. “To be honest, apart from that, it was a good match. I think we both left it all out there.
“The second break in the fifth set was so ridiculously unlucky that it sometimes happen. But he’s No. 1 in the world for a reason and he showed that tonight.
“I think mentally he’s the best player to ever play the game. Mentally in the most important moments I would rather play against anybody else but him.”
Djokovic is now three sets from a Calendar Grand Slam. The last guy standing in his way is Daniil Medvedev.
The World No. 2 manhandled Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. The 21-year-old Canadian had a chance at making it a match with a set point serving 5-3 in the second but he chunked the volley. Medvedev proceeded to take advantage winning 10 of the next 12 games.
“Tough match, especially second set was crucial,” Medvedev said. “Second set defined the match because I was really close to lose it. Many times you’re going to lose a break against such an opponent as Felix, he had set points on his serve, you’re going to lose a set. We can never know now how the match would go. Could be completely different story, being one set all, would be the first time for me in the tournament.”
Auger-Aliassime was playing his first Slam semifinal. He drops to 0-7 against Top 5 players.
“I think Daniil was the better player today on the court for sure,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It still shows things that I can improve in every aspect of my game. I had to play my best level and even better if I wanted to get a chance to win today. I didn’t do it long enough. I think, yeah, overall Daniil was the better player.”
Djokovic has won five of eight from Medvedev heading into Sunday. But nothing is given.
“It’s going to be more interesting in terms of tactic what I’m going to prepare,” Medvedev said of facing Djokovic. “I think the thing that I understand, I always give my best, but I feel like I didn’t leave my heart on the court in Melbourne. Even if of course I wanted to, there was something not turning up this match.
“He has 20 slams, going for the Golden Slam, it’s not a must, but I want to do it even more. That’s normal. The more you lose something, the more you want to win it, the more you want to gain it and take it. I lost two finals. I want to win the third one. That’s tennis, we have two players, only one going to win. You never know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to try more than I did the first two times.”
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