Novak Djokovic is one win away from the Grand Slam of the calendar after winning his US Open semi-final, but the world number one was pushed by Alexander Zverev.
The German fourth seed got off to a good start, winning the opening set before Djokovic showed familiar resilience to hit back, taking the second and third sets.
Unlike the previous times he lost the first set, Djokovic was unable to close out the game in four, as Zverev removed his game to force a decision.
A raucous crowd roared two men on Flushing Meadows, as Djokovic got the vital break and outpassed his opponent before securing a classic 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 semi-final victory.
Djokovic received a standing ovation after finishing the victory in three hours 33 minutes.
Djokovic will now seek to complete the set of men’s singles major titles for 2021, and in the process pass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with the title of the 21 major singles of his career – ending on his way will be Daniil Medvedev.
Asked about the prospect, he said: “He’s there, he’s there [the Grand Slam calendar]. I know people want to hear me talk about it.”
“There’s only one game left, [I] have everything, everything inside, let’s do it.
“I will put my heart and myself and my body, I will treat it as if it is the last item of my career.”
Two key moments came in the two years and three hours of the match, respectively.
The first followed an epic 53-shot rally won by Zverev to save the second from three points of a set, with Djokovic recovering to put his opponent in another shorter rally before putting the winner to take two sets for one advantage.
The second came early in the fifth set. The Serbian superstar had closed his opening service game, then raised the pressure on Zverev, forcing the breakpoint.
Another brilliant rally saw the two men show great court coverage and a shot before Djokovic threw a winner in front of the cross-court to break up 2-0.
No man has won the Grand Slam of the calendar year in 62 years, since Australian Rod Laver did it for the second time – Steffi Graf caught up with her in the 1988 women’s tour.
Laver was seated in the President’s Box at Arthur Ashe Stadium for Friday’s matches.
Djokovic started the day 26-0 in major tournaments in 2021, with titles at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. It is now 27-0.
Medvedev advanced to the final with a win over Auger-Alissime
Medvedev was one point from being tied in a set piece in his semi-final against Felix Auger-Aliassime.
But the two-seeded number has risen from that tight spot, beating Auger-Aliassime prone to errors 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 on Friday and he is now headed for his third final. of the grand slam.
Medvedev, a 25-year-old from Russia, was second place to Djokovic at Melbourne Park in February and Rafael Nadal at Flushing Meadows in 2019. This was Medvedev’s third consecutive trip to the semifinals of the US Open.
The 12-year-old Auger-Aliassime is a 21-year-old Canadian from Canada who is coached by Nadal’s uncle, Toni, and was appearing in a major semi-final for the first time.
Perhaps the novelty of it all affected her. Surely Medvedev’s games did too.
Auger-Aliassime finished with 39 unforced errors – including 10 double faults, three in the opening game only – and only 17 winners.
Compare this to Medvedev’s numbers, built with court coverage behind the baseline and slick strokes: 37 winners, 25 unforced errors.
Auger-Aliassime finally got a break point of more than an hour, and a double failure by Medvedev gave them a 4-2 lead, which quickly became 5-2. But when Auger-Aliassime served for that 5-3 set, he couldn’t cross the line.
Twice, he was a point from taking the set. Twice, it didn’t happen, most disconcerting when he missed what should have been a routine forehand volley, slapping it into the net.
A bad backhand ultimately gave away that game, then more mistakes — among them, a double-fault — contributed to Auger-Aliassime getting broken at love to trail 6-5.
Medvedev then held to cap a five-game run and claim a two-set lead. The match was 90 minutes old and, essentially, over.
Medvedev and Zverev both are in search of a first grand slam title. Djokovic, meanwhile, was trying to win a 21st overall title from the sport’s four most important tournaments, which would break the men’s career mark he shares with Nadal and Roger Federer.
Zverev went into his match on a 16-match winning streak, including a victory over Djokovic in the Tokyo Olympics semi-finals on July 30 along the way to the gold medal. That was a best-of-three-sets match; in New York, the format is best-of-five for men.
The US Open women’s final is Saturday, with about as unlikely a match-up as there’s ever been with a Grand Slam title on the line: 18-year-old qualifier Emma Raducanu of Britain versus 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada.
Raducanu is ranked 150th, is playing in only her second major tournament and is the first player to go through qualifying and make it all the way to a title match. She hasn’t dropped a set yet.
Fernandez is ranked 73rd, is in her seventh slam appearance and is coming off three-set victories over four seeded opponents in a row: number three Naomi Osaka, who won the US Open in 2018 and last year; number 16 Angelique Kerber, who won it in 2016; number five Elina Svitolina and number two Aryna Sabalenka.
It is the first grand slam final between two teenagers since the 1999 US Open, when Serena Williams, 17, won the first of her 23 major championships by defeating Martina Hingis, 18.