US Open: Djokovic faces toughest test against Zverev

  • Matt Trollope

Irresistible force meets immovable object when Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev go head to head in a blockbuster US Open semifinal on Friday night.

Zverev enters the contest on a 16-match unbeaten streak after winning the Olympic singles gold medal and Cincinnati Masters titles – plus five matches so far in New York.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has proved unbeatable over five sets at Grand Slam events in 2021.

US OPEN DAY 10 REPORT: Djokovic sets up Zverev semifinal

The world No.1 is a flawless 26-0 at major tournaments this year and now stands two wins away from completing a calendar-year Grand Slam, as well as capturing a men’s record 21st major singles title.

But No.4 seed Zverev, who has dropped just one set this fortnight at Flushing Meadows, looms as his toughest test yet.

Prior to that match-up, second seed Daniil Medvedev takes on 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime on Friday afternoon at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Auger-Aliassime will look to emulate fellow Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who has lit up the tournament with her unlikely run to the women’s final.

Medvedev, who has won 13 of his last 14 matches, is seeking a place in his second US Open final in the past three years.

[1] Novak Djokovic v [4] Alexander Zverev

The last time they met, in the Tokyo Olympics semifinals, Djokovic was leading by a set and a break before Zverev roared back to claim an unlikely 1-6 6-3 6-1 triumph.

It is a result that has infused the German with confidence, and it has reflected in his results ever since.

“Winning (in Tokyo) against the world No.1, especially that I was down a set and a break, being kind of out of the match, then coming back, it was different than the other matches. The emotions were different,” said Zverev, who has won three of nine career meetings against Djokovic, but none at majors.

“This year it seems like nobody can beat him in a big match, nobody can beat him at the Grand Slams. I feel like I was the first player to beat him in a very big match this year.

“I know it's going to be battle... But I'm ready for it. These are the hurdles that I need to overcome in order to get to the desired destination.”
Novak Djokovic on facing Alexander Zverev

“That does give you something. To any person it would give you something. I think it was very important for me to back it up in the (Olympic) finals, back it up in Cincinnati.

“Hopefully I can continue this streak.”

That loss to Zverev spoiled Djokovic’s quest for a Golden Grand Slam but he can still sweep all four major titles this season – the sport’s holy grail and something which has not been accomplished in the men’s game since Rod Laver did it 52 years ago.

“The Olympic Games have been tough ending for me emotionally. But I did dominate the tournament to semifinals. I was 6-1, 3-2 against Zverev, who was also playing very well. Just I played great, great tennis. Then unfortunately game fell apart. It happens,” Djokovic reflected.

“He's in fantastic form. Next to Medvedev, best form. But it's best-of-five. It's Grand Slam.

“I know it's going to be a battle, even harder than it was today (against Matteo Berrettini). But I'm ready for it.

“These are the hurdles that I need to overcome in order to get to the desired destination.”

[2] Daniil Medvedev v [12] Felix Auger-Aliassime

Medvedev, who like Zverev has dropped only one set this tournament, continues to build an excellent record at Flushing Meadows.

The Russian is into his third consecutive US Open semifinal and was the champion at the Toronto Masters just a few weeks earlier.

MEDVEDEV: "If I play good, it's tough to beat me"

“I like that I have this experience,” said Medvedev, who won his only prior meeting with Grand Slam semifinal debutant Auger-Aliassime.

“I know how is it. I'm not gonna be tight. I know that. After, it's a question about tennis. If I play good, it's going to be not easy for my opponent.

“That's the most important thing I'm gonna try to do.”

“I like that I have this experience. I'm not gonna be tight. I know that. If I play good, it's going to be not easy for my opponent."
Daniil Medvedev

Auger-Aliassime only recently notched his best Grand Slam performance with his run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals, where he was the last person to beat Zverev.

Yet he has bettered that in New York, with his powerful baseline game perfectly suited to the tournament’s quick hard courts.

“He's going to come in with a lot of confidence. I also need to step up and be confident in myself,” said the 21-year-old, who earlier beat Roberto Bautista Agut and Frances Tiafoe before getting past an injured Carlos Alcaraz in the quarters.

“I need to serve well. I need to play a great match, be solid from every aspect of my game. At the same time I need to try to put pressure on him.

“But it's going to be tough. I need to be ready for his best. I need to lace my shoes really well, too, because there's going to be a lot of running.

“It's going to be interesting.”