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Revenge at the top in the last four of the US Open. On the road to a double feat, the world n ° 1 Novak Djokovic finds Friday Alexander Zverev, reigning Olympic champion and the last man to have beaten him in competition.
A calendar Grand Slam unprecedented under the Open era, doubled by the absolute record of victories in Major. This is the gargantuan goal of Novak Djokovic, world No. 1 still hungry for records, at the US Open. In the semi-final on Friday September 10, he will have on his way the one who could prove to be his greatest threat: the German Alexander Zverev, in great shape since his victory at the Tokyo Olympics where he had dismissed the Serbian at the same stage of the competition.
“I know it’s going to be a tough battle. But I’m ready. These are the obstacles I have to overcome to get to the place I want,” said the world No. 1 on Wednesday evening after his victory in quarterbacks against the Italian Matteo Berrettini, the most convincing of the tournament so far.
Novak Djokovic won 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in 3:30, at the expense of the Italian (8th world). And he lost another set, the first. But unlike previous matches, during which he ended up gaining the upper hand, giving the impression of mostly fighting against himself, this time he offered his best tennis in the following three sets.
“I think it was a great performance overall,” said Djokovic, correctly reckoning that these last three sets were “the best (that he has) played in the tournament”.
The central court Arthur-Ashe was nevertheless acquired to the cause of the Italian. However, “Djoko” is never as loud as when he’s with his back to the wall, in the middle of a decibel storm. And he enjoyed a capital of confidence against this slugger whom he beat twice in Grand Slam, each time in four sets, in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros in June and in the final of Wimbledon in July. And what had to happen happened: “Nole” returned the public, who reserved a standing ovation at the end of the match.
Two steps away from the feat that would allow him to place himself at the top of the tennis pantheon, Djokovic knows that the challenge will be difficult. Alexander Zverev has been in resplendent form since his gold medal in early August at the Tokyo Olympics. The Cincinnati Masters 1000 pocketed in stride, the 4th player in the world is now 16 wins in a row, after having passed each of his turns without incident.
A performance that could gently make the “Djoker” laugh: the Serbian remains on 26 consecutive Grand Slam victories.
“Against Novak, you have to play the best tennis you can. You have to be perfect, otherwise you won’t win. But most of the time, that’s impossible. That’s why most of the time people lose against him.” , explains Zverev, who is the latest to take Djokovic out of a tournament. It was in the semi-finals in Tokyo, reversing a situation that was compromised. “You have to go for the victory, you have to be the one who dominates the rally. You have to do it with very few unforced errors. He is the best player in the world. He is very difficult to beat.”
That extra something that Zverev hopes to have is immense confidence, which shows on the courts at Flushing Meadows. Even where, last year, he had finally cracked in the final, overthrown by the Austrian Dominic Thiem.
“Alexander is in fantastic form. But it’s a best-of-five-set match ahead, in a Grand Slam,” said Novak Djokovic.
Indeed, the German is not known for his performance over five sets. He has never beaten a member of the top 10 in this format. If he has a positive record in the best of three sets (32 wins, 28 losses), Zverev has always lost in the long version (0-12), recalls the Team.
“Physically, I feel as fit as anybody else. I’ll be ready to face him in five sets, five hours, whatever it takes. That’s what I’m here for,” knowingly recalled Djokovic, who loves nothing as long as the battles that last, considering himself to be the most armed to win them.
The epic fight in the semi-finals of Roland-Garros in which he emerged victorious against Rafael Nadal was the vivid proof of this in June. But on Parisian clay, he was not necessarily the favorite and did not have the immense pressure that weighs on his shoulders today.
In New York, Novak Djokovic is simply attempting the greatest feat of modern tennis: winning a fourth US Open to win the Grand Slam the same year, which has not been successful since Rod Laver in 1969. and which would also bring to 21 the record for Majors won by a player, ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Two steps from history, “Djoko” has also refused to raise this subject for the umpteenth time, which comes up with insistence at each press conference. “If I start to think about it too much, it weighs me down mentally. We’ll talk about it on Sunday, I hope.”
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