2003 US Open winner Andy Roddick tweeted, “First he takes your legs…Then he takes your soul” about Novak Djokovic during the Serb’s win against Jenson Brooksby in their Round of 16 encounter on Monday. Matteo Berrettini, Djokovic’s opponent in the quarterfinal, experienced that on Wednesday. The Italian won a marathon opening set, then the wheels came off his game. After conceding the first set 5-7, the 34-year-old Serb was unyielding and relentless, clinically diffusing Berrettini’s challenge to win the next three 6-2 6-2 6-3. He completed a comprehensive victory in 3 hours and 27 minutes in a raucous atmosphere at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
US Open Semifinal Preview
On Friday, in a rematch of the Tokyo Olympics semifinal, the Serb will take on Alexander Zverev for a spot in the final. The 24-year-old German is on a 16-match unbeaten streak that includes Olympic Gold Medal triumph and a win at Cincinnati Masters 1000 last month. Zverev snapped Djokovic’s winning streak and his chance to win the Olympic Gold during their most recent meeting in the semifinal at Tokyo. He has been in a phenomenal form post his Wimbledon debacle.
In his quarterfinal, Zverev breezed past Lloyd Harris 7-6(6) 6-3 6-4 in just over two hours. He has lost just a solitary set en route to his semifinal. Djokovic leads Zverev 6-3 in their head-head record so far on the ATP Tour. The Serb also bested Zverev in both of their meetings at Majors, his four-set win at the Australian Open earlier this season their latest such face-off.
The last time Novak Djokovic was beaten in a competed match at the US Open was in 2016, when Stan Wawrinka stunned Djokovic in four sets in the final. Since his straight-sets loss to Hyeon Chung in the Round of 16 at the 2018 Australian Open, the Serb is yet to be conquered in a completed match at a hard-court Major. This demonstrates the enormity of the task at Zverev’s fet.
Novak Djokovic vs Alexander Zverev
Zverev has a highly efficient service game, is reliable off both wings, and is in the form of his life. He certainly has all the rights ingredients to stun Djokovic in their semifinal. However, Zverev will be battling against the odds as he is yet to record a win against a Top 10 player at a Major. Defeating Djokovic in the best of five sets contests is an altogether different proposition than taking him down in three. Zverev needs to be consistent and patient if he fancies beating Djokovic.
As far as Djokovic is concerned, he seems to have found a pattern where he typically takes a set to warm up. But thereafter he is invincible, playing a relentless brand of tennis that drives his opponents into oblivion. Features of Djokovic’s win over Berrettini were his return of serve and the way he exposed Italian’s weak backhand. However, Djokovic won’t have that luxury against Zverev. The German is equally effective off his backhand wing as his forehand. The Serb must hit the top gear as soon as he can to upset Zverev’s rhythm.
While Zverev has been showing signs of consistency at the Majors in recent years, he has faltered at the crunch moments. To pull off the upset, he must not panic and get overwhelmed by the occasion. Against a clutch player like Djokovic, who is aiming to create history, the young German will need to display mental fortitude and patience in abundance as he hopes to dislodge the World No.1.
The Quest for the Calendar Slam
Novak Djokovic is just two wins away from claiming his record-breaking 21st Major title. He starts as an overwhelming favorite against Zverev. The Serb has been strong so far in the pursuit of his 21st Grand Slam title and has not shown any signs of nerves. However, as he approaches the business end of the tournament, will he crumble under the weight of his expectations?
As far as Zverev is concerned, he has a lot of questions to answer. He is chasing a spot in the final at New York for the second time in his career, after losing a big lead in last year’s final.
All in all, a mouth-watering and pulsating clash awaits us on Friday as Djokovic and Zverev will lock horns to book a spot in the final on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Main Photo from Getty.