Djokovic is now two wins away from a historic Grand Slam and the record-breaking 21st major title. – GETTY IMAGES

Never worried, rarely confused, Novak Djokovic is so collected in best-of-five set matches, even when he falls behind, as he did repeatedly at the US Open.

None Opponents or the prospect of what was at stake was too much to deal with. At least not yet. And now he’s two victories away from the first men’s tennis grand slam since 1969 in one calendar year, along with a 21st major championship record overall.

Djokovic gave the opening set for the third time in a row at Flushing Meadows – and in 2021 ninth time with a major – but again it didn’t matter because he quickly corrected his punches and beat Matteo Berrettini, the number 6 seeded 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in a quarter-finals that took place on Wednesday night started and ended after midnight on Thursday.

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Thereafter, Djokovic cut off a question during his court interview, sensed where it was leading, and said, “Don’t ask me about the story. I know it’s there. ”

When he came back and improved to 26-0 in the Grand Slam game this season, Djokovic found every nook and cranny, thwarted every big Berrettini shot and was caught in that he dived during a change and dropped his club, but climbed, got up, and stuck himself back into the point. He lost it, but the message to his enemy was unmistakable and essentially was, “I’ll do whatever it takes.”

After 17 easy mistakes in the first sentence, Djokovic made a total of 11 the rest of the way. “The best three sets I’ve played in the tournament, for sure,” he said.

When Berrettini stood one last time and held a breakpoint, while he was 4-2 behind in the third set, Djokovic held on . He had Berrettini toss a backhand into the net, then conjured up an ace and forehand winner down the line, then pointed his right index finger at his ear – one of many gestures the 20,299 on the Arthur Ashe stadium called for noise.

Djokovic won trophies on the hard courts of the Australian Open in February, on the clay courts of the French Open in June and on the grass courts of Wimbledon in July and defeated Berrettini in the final of the All England Club.

Djokovic has added five wins on the hard courts of the US Open and will now face the 2020 runner-up, Alexander Zverev, in the semi-finals on Friday. If Djokovic can win this match and the final on Sunday, he, along with Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969), will be the only men to win all four major tennis singles trophies in one season. (Three women made it, most recently Steffi Graf in 1988; Serena Williams’s application ended in the semifinals of the US Open in 2015).

Another slam title will also break the career brand that Djokovic is currently with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal shares.

Zverev moves into the semifinals with a winning streak of 16 games, including a 1: 6, 6: 3, 6: 1 triumph against Djokovic on the way to the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“I’m thrilled,” said Djokovic, looking ahead to what to expect. “The bigger the challenge, the more honor you have in coping.”

The other men’s semifinals are No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, a two-time major finalist, against No. 12 Felix Auger-Aliassime. On Tuesday they won their quarter-finals.

Zverev, a 24-year-old German who was seeded with No. 4, advanced on Wednesday afternoon by defeating Lloyd Harris 7: 6 (6), 6: 3, 6: 4 defeated.

Hours later, both Djokovic and Berrettini showed nervousness on a humid evening with a temperature of 75 degrees and 80 percent humidity. Applause, whistles and roars preceded the first serve, a 124 mph ace from Djokovic, a three-time US Open champion.

Banned from the tournament a year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fans are clearly enjoying being back to be.

They created a fugue of competing chants from Djokovic’s nickname “No-le! No! ”And a shortened version of Berrettini’s first name“ Mat-te! Mat-te! ”Some greeted Djokovic’s missed serves with claps, which were considered a no-go in the sport, and some – perhaps the same people – lamented Berrettini’s mistakes with a common” Awwwww “.

Djokovic’s form was at the beginning not at her best yet, with more flaws than he could imagine – he rolled his eyes, put a palm on his forehead, and mumbled around him.

Berrettini uses his 6-foot-5,209-pound -Frames to create punitive power in serves and forehand; Djokovic called him the “hammer of tennis”.

But if a player can blunt this style, it’s Djokovic, whose instincts, reflexes, agility and mobility are superior. So unlike most of the other players, he can return a serve of 131 mph and not only get it into play but with enough intent to result in a missed backhand from Berrettini, as happened when Djokovic was in the second Set 3-1 ahead.

Still, Berrettini managed to divert the first two breakpoints he faced with booming service winners – one at 132 mph, the other 134 mph and then turning his fourth opportunity to lead 6 with a running cross-court forehand winner. 5. One game and four setpoints later, Berrettini kicked off thanks to a faulty forehand from Djokovic.

The game was already 77 minutes old. Berrettini went for a toilet break to change; Djokovic sat on the sidelines, wrapped a white towel around his neck and began, as so often, to prepare for the turn.

He also lost the first set in the third round against Kei Nishikori and in the fourth against Jenson Brooksby before he won in four both times. Did the same against Berrettini at Wimbledon.

Perhaps, Djokovic joked after this game, the early deficits were “in a way a good tactic”.

It wasn’t long before Djokovic prevailed this time too , thanks in large part to his cleanup by reducing the number of mistakes, with three in the second set and three in the third with the retractable roof closed due to expected rain.

Just holding the serve became one for Berrettini Torture, so much so that he breathed a sigh of relief when it finally held up after breaking three times in four games in the middle two sets. But he had already given away the second and fell back in the third with 0: 3. The fourth got that score too, and Djokovic was one step closer to the story.

Ref: https://sportstar.thehindu.com