Novak Djokovic one step away from calendar Grand Slam after epic win

Novak Djokovic moves one step away from a historic calendar Grand Slam after beating Alexander Zverev in epic five-set US Open semi-final… with Daniil Medvedev lying in wait in Sunday’s showpiece

  • Novak Djokovic beat Alexander Zverev over five sets to reach US Open final
  • World No 1 won 4-6 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-2 on Arthur Ashe court on Friday evening
  • He now plays Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final as 2021 Grand Slam beckons
  • Rod Laver was the last to achieve a calendar Grand Slam, back in 1969 

Novak Djokovic said he will treat Sunday’s US Open final ‘like it is the last match of my career’ after battling to a five-set victory over Alexander Zverev.

Defeat by the German earlier this summer denied Djokovic the chance to become the first man to complete the Golden Slam of all four major titles and Olympic singles gold, but the main carrot of the calendar Grand Slam and a 21st slam title are now only one match away.

Zverev came from a set down in Tokyo but here the tables were turned, with Djokovic recovering from that position for the fourth match in a row and then overcoming a fourth-set hiccup to win 4-6 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-2.

Novak Djokovic roars with delight after clinching semi-final victory over Alexander Zverev 

The world No 1 was pushed hard over five sets but booked his place in Sunday’s final

Zverev took the first set and also the fourth but Djokovic’s class prevailed in a five-set classic

Victory over second seed Daniil Medvedev on Sunday would see him become the first man since Rod Laver – who was among the crowd on Arthur Ashe – in 1969 to win all four slams in one year, as well as moving him clear of his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top of the men’s slam count.

Djokovic said with a smile: ‘I’m going for a fourth US Open, that’s all I’m thinking about. I know people like to hear me talk about it but there’s not much to talk about.

‘There is only one match left. All in. Let’s do it. I’m going to put my heart and my soul and my body and my head into that one. I’m going to treat the next match like it is the last match of my career.’

Djokovic has been a slow starter this fortnight but not here, despite a delay for President Joe Biden to fly into New York ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Djokovic plays a shot during Friday night’s engrossing semi-final on the Arthur Ashe court

Zverev shows his frustration at losing a point as he pushed Djokovic all the way in New York

The pair were soon involved in crunching rallies, which suited Zverev just fine. The German, runner-up to Dominic Thiem in last year’s final, began to get the upper hand, forcing a first break point in the seventh game and then taking one two games later.

Djokovic’s forehand was a little wayward and a double fault on break point, followed by a shank on Zverev’s third set point, betrayed the weight on his shoulders.

Djokovic was under pressure again at the start of the second set but this time he held and suddenly the tension switched to Zverev, who played a poor game to hand the initiative straight back.

Nerves threatened to overwhelm the match in the third set, with neither man able to play freely, but it had a stunning conclusion.

Zverev did not face a break point until the 10th game, when Djokovic showed why he is arguably already the best player in history, simply refusing to miss.

Djokovic has the chance to become the first player since 1969 to win a calendar Grand Slam

Zverev won an extraordinary 53-shot rally on Djokovic’s second chance, the pair matching each other stroke for stroke, seemingly daring the other to go for too much, but Djokovic took his third opportunity anyway.

It was a familiar script but Zverev went into the contest on a 16-match winning streak and he continued to believe the match was winnable, upping the aggression and playing a superb game to break for 2-1 in the fourth.

That proved enough to push the contest into a decider but Djokovic found a level Zverev simply could not match and he clinched victory after three hours and 34 minutes.

The German backed his good friend to make history on Sunday, saying: ‘He’s breaking every single record that there is. I think mentally he’s the best player to ever play the game. Mentally in the most important moments I would rather play against anybody else but him.’

Djokovic reacts after clinching the third set but there would be plenty more drama to come 

Earlier, Medvedev was involved in a much more straightforward contest against first-time slam semi-finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The second seed’s only scare came in the second set, which Canadian Auger-Aliassime served for and had two set points. But he fell away dramatically after failing to take them and Medvedev eased to a 6-4 7-5 6-2 victory.

That sent the Russian through to a third grand slam final after defeat by Rafael Nadal in New York two years ago and Djokovic at the Australian Open in February.

The latter occasion was a one-sided affair, and Medvedev vowed to do better this time.

Daniil Medvedev celebrates winning a point during his semi-final against Auger-Aliassime 

He said: ‘I always give my best but I feel like I didn’t leave my heart on the court in Melbourne. Even if of course I wanted to, there was something not turning up this match.

‘That’s what I’m going to try to do on Arthur Ashe with hopefully 100 per cent of fans. No matter the score, I’m just going to turn up the heat.

‘I have the experience of two finals of slams that can help me. Doesn’t mean it will, but it can help me. The only thing I can say is, all what I have left, I’m going to throw it out on Sunday.’

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