US Open Day 12: Djokovic one win from Grand Slam, Medvedev awaits

  • Matt Trollope

World No.1 Novak Djokovic is on the brink of tennis immortality after beating Alexander Zverev in five sets in Friday night’s US Open semifinal.

Djokovic beat the Olympic gold medallist 4-6 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-2 to reach the final and is now one win away becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Grand Slam – as well as major title No.21, an all-time men’s record.

Standing between Djokovic and history is world No.2 Daniil Medvedev, who returned to the US Open final after dismantling Felix Auger-Aliassime on Friday afternoon.

The Russian, who also reached the final in 2019, saved two set points in the second set to completely turn the match around, posting a 6-4 7-5 6-2 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Djokovic prevails in semifinal epic

Djokovic had lost to Zverev from a set and a break up in their last meeting at the Tokyo Olympics, and the world No.4 had been unstoppable since.

He carried this confidence into the first set, serving supremely – he won 17 of 18 first-serve points – and committing just six unforced errors to take an early lead.

But he could not maintain that form in the second stanza, double-faulting to fall behind 2-0 and committing seven unforced errors in the first three games alone.

Novak Djokovic (R) and Alexander Zverev meet at the net after Djokovic won their US Open semifinal in five sets on Friday night in New York. (Getty Images)

Djokovic broke again to take the second set and enjoyed the advantage of serving first in the third – which later hurt the German.

Always playing catch-up, Zverev was unable to convert break points in the fifth game and suddenly, when serving at 4-5, found himself down 0-40.

Zverev saved two of those set points – the second with a forehand winner to end an absurd 53-stroke rally – but couldn’t stave off a third.

Djokovic played overhead winner to take a two-sets-to-one lead.

Zverev did not go away, playing a forehand winner up the line to break early in the fourth, and going on to force a fifth.

But here, Djokovic showcased his champion qualities.

Adding pace to his groundstrokes and urgency to his movement, he broke a wobbly Zverev in the second game and stormed to a 5-0 lead, securing his second break when Zverev botched an overhead.

Zverev rallied briefly, and Djokovic wobbled slightly, but was too far behind to seriously threaten the Serb.

Stat of the day

This semifinal pitted Djokovic’s 26-match winning streak at the majors against Zverev’s 16-match winning streak, taking in the Olympic and Cincinnati titles prior to the US Open.

And Djokovic extended his 2021 record at the Grand Slams to a flawless 27-0 after handing Zverev his first loss since falling to Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round at Wimbledon more than two months ago.

Zverev is now 0-11 against top-10 opponents at Grand Slams.

Medvedev into third major final

Medvedev entered this semifinal clash as the Toronto Masters champion who had won 13 of his past 14 matches and surrendered only one set at Flushing Meadows so far.

And he continued that form in the opening set against Auger-Aliassime, winning 80 per cent of points on both his first and second serves and striking 14 winners to just five unforced errors.

The young Canadian had pushed Medvedev to a final-set tiebreak in their only previous meeting and it seemed he would make this contest a similarly tight affair when he broke Medvedev in the sixth game of the second set and forged ahead 5-2.

Serving for the set at 5-4, he held two set points – but Medvedev dug in and saved them both.

The complexion of the match changed completely, sparking a winning run of 15 of the next 17 points from Medvedev who snatched the second set.

During that dominant span, he showcased his unique brand of tennis – a deep return position to neutralise his opponent's big serve, relentless retrieving and an ability to turn defence into offence with one strike – and the 21-year-old simply could not hit through him.

A dispirited Auger-Aliassime leaked errors in the third set as Medvedev returned to his efficient best on serve, dropping only one point on his first delivery and closing out the match in a touch over two hours.

The result sends Medvedev into his second major final of 2021; he also reached the same stage at the Australian Open, where he lost to Djokovic.

Doubles: Ram & Salisbury crowned champions, women’s final set

Prior to that singles semifinal on Ashe was the men’s doubles final, won by Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.

The American-British combination beat 2016 US Open champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 3-6 6-2 6-2 to win their second major doubles title as a duo after also triumphing at Australian Open 2020.

The women’s doubles final was also set, with AO 2019 champions Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai to meet American teenagers Coco Gauff and Caty McNally in an exciting intergenerational battle.

Cincinnati winners Stosur and Zhang extended their winning streak to 10 matches by beating No.7 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi Mathison 6-2 7-5, wth Stosur now one victory away from capturing the doubles title on the 10th anniversary of her US Open singles triumph.

Gauff and McNally, meanwhile, have advanced to their first major doubles final; they were locked in a first-set tiebreak against Gabriela Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani before Stefani was forced to retire with a leg injury.

Wheelchair: Alcott wins again as history beckons

World No.1 Dylan Alcott beat Bryan Barten 6-0 6-1 in his opening match at Flushing Meadows to reach the semifinals of the quad wheelchair singles event.

Having already won this year’s Australian, Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles, plus Paralympic singles gold in Tokyo, Alcott now stands just two wins away from an historic Golden Grand Slam.

The Australian star has built a sparkling 19-1 win-loss record in 2021 and will look to continue that form when he takes on Japan’s Koji Sugeno for a place in the final.

Also on track for the Golden Slam is Dutchwoman Diede De Groot, the world No.1 who thumped compatriot Aniek Van Koot 6-1 6-0 to reach the women’s singles final, where she will face second set Yui Kamiji.

The men’s singles final will also feature a battle between the world’s top two, after Paralympic champion Shingo Kunieda and Roland Garros winner Alfie Hewett won their semifinals on Friday.

Tweets of the day

Quotes of the day

"Biggest battle I had so far in the tournament. I knew that he's going to be a huge challenge and task to overcome Zverev tonight and to prevail. It's a great win. I'm proud of the fight that I delivered. I probably could have played better in some moments. Again, I have to be satisfied with delivering the best tennis I possibly could in the most important set, which was the fifth set."
- Novak Djokovic

“This year I didn't have the stories (defining my 2019 run), and that's a good thing. I have the experience of two finals of slams that can help me. Doesn't mean it will, but can help me. The only thing I can say is all what I have left, I'm going to throw it out (on the court) on Sunday.”
- Daniil Medvedev

"I think it's great for the sport. Nobody thought anybody will do it again, what Rod Laver did. If you look at the stats, if you look the pure game of tennis action, he's the greatest of all time. Nobody is there with him, because most weeks world No. 1, most Masters 1000s titles, most likely going to be the most Grand Slams at the end of the day. And he has the chance of winning all four in the same year. How do you compete with that?"
- Alexander Zverev, on Novak Djokovic's Grand Slam quest.

“He didn't give me much openings. Against a player like that, you don't really have room for mistakes, room for losing your focus, which I did at the end of the second. He took advantage of it and I didn't get another chance after that.”
- Felix Auger-Aliassime on Daniil Medvedev.

Day 13: Ones to watch

The women’s singles final between Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu – in equal parts extremely unexpected and highly anticipated – headlines the Saturday schedule at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Fernandez and Raducanu, contesting the first all-teenaged major final since Serena Williams met Martina Hingis in the 1999 US Open finale, will both look to cap a fairytale fortnight with their first Grand Slam singles title.

ORDER OF PLAY: US Open Day 13

Prior to that is the mixed doubles final, with Salisbury aiming for his second major title in as many days when he and Krawczyk face Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos and Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador.

Alcott opens the Louis Armstrong Stadium order of play against Sugeno, playing for a place in his third consecutive US Open final.