Novak Djokovic, forceps winner Alexander Zverev (4th), Friday in New York, opened the doors to a Grand Slam over the historic year, by qualifying for the final of the US Open where the Russia’s Daniil Medvedev (2nd) is firmly awaiting.
“These are the times we live for. These are the kind of unique opportunities we dream of when we are looking for motivation. I’m going to play the next game as if it was the last of my career, ”reacted the Serbian after his 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory.
Winning all four Grand Slams in the same year has not been successful since Rod Laver in 1969, now 83, who appeared in the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. The Australian saw the world no.1 walk a little more in his footsteps, also driven by the possibility of bringing the record for the number of major titles collected by a single player to 21, overtaking Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
So here is “Nole” more than a walk to achieve a monumental feat, certainly the greatest in the history of the Open era, for men. If he succeeds, the 34-year-old Serb will no longer be able to be challenged, in terms of the prize list at least, the status of “GOAT” [Greatest of All Time ou, en français, plus grand joueur de tous les temps] of tennis.
“More than one game. I’m going to put my heart, my soul, my body and my head into it, ”he promised.
Meanwhile, Djokovic has tied yet another Swiss record, advancing to his 31st Grand Slam final. He also became the oldest US Open finalist since Andre Agassi, 35 in 2005, perhaps waiting to become the oldest winner since Ken Rosewall, 35 in 1970.
Before taking on Zverev, the Serb, rightly expecting “a tough battle”, warned that he would be “ready to face him five sets, five hours, whatever it takes”, ensuring to be the best in such matches.
He proved it, even if the fight did not last so long, since he won in 3:33.
After the loss of the first set, Zverev showing himself to be solid on his entry and aggressive, Djokovic reacted immediately, as in the previous laps where he had also had to recover this handicap. And it was not this fabulous point, finally lost after 53 blows on both sides, which was going to prevent him just behind from pocketing the third round.
The German, led in his turn, two races to one, was not disconcerted, certainly remembering the scenario of the semi-final at the Tokyo Olympics, where he had reversed the situation against Djokovic, s’ thus paving the way for a gold medal. And he managed to tie two innings everywhere.
Since his victory in Japan, Zverev has lined up 16 victories, winning the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati. A series that ended there, because the world No. 1 further raised his level in this 5th round where he feels so strong.
Ovation at Arthur Ashe
He assaulted his helpless opponent, who barely saw the games go by and found himself leading 5-0. Valiant, the German once broke free, showing courage and talent, in other sumptuous exchanges that will have delighted the Arthur Ashe.
But Djokovic, the only champion that he is, did not let him hope for one more moment and forced his destiny, receiving, during a huge ovation from the public, words of respect certainly pronounced in his ear by his rival.
He will therefore be opposed to Medvedev, who easily qualified for his second final at Flushing Meadows by eliminating 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 the Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime (15th).
“If I get there, I’ll probably be somewhere in the history books as having been the one who didn’t let it happen,” he stressed, promising to “give it my all” on Sunday.
But the Russian, beaten in 2019 at this stage by Rafael Nadal after an epic fight in five sets, has energy to spare, because he passed his turns in less than two hours on average.
But he knows that the last time they faced each other was in the final of the Australian Open and “Nole” then folded the case into three rounds, without frowning.
The latter then began, he perhaps knew, his greatest march towards history.