New York – Novak Djokovic moved within two matches of completing the first men’s calendar-year Grand Slam in 52 years by rallying to defeat Italian Matteo Berrettini in their U.S. Open quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Top-ranked Djokovic extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 26 matches by eliminating No. 6 seed Berrettini 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a rematch of July’s Wimbledon final.
“I think it was a great performance overall,” Djokovic said, calling his last three sets “the best three sets I’ve played in the tournament.”
He booked a semifinal date Friday against Olympic champion Alexander Zverev, who beat Djokovic in the semifinals in Tokyo.
“He’s in tremendous form,” Djokovic said. “He has been winning a lot. He’s one of the best players in the world right now and I’m pumped. The bigger the challenge, the more glory in overcoming it.”
Djokovic is trying to become the first man to win all four major titles in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969, but isn’t ready ponder the glory of that challenge just yet.
“Only focusing on the next match,” he said. “Don’t ask me about history. I’m thinking only about the next match. Step by step.”
The 34-year-old Serbian great is also seeking his fourth U.S. Open title and his 21st Grand Slam title, which would break the tie for the men’s record he currently shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are both absent with injuries.
German fourth seed Zverev, last year’s U.S Open runner-up, reached his fourth career Grand Slam semifinal by eliminating South Africa’s Lloyd Harris 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-4.
Zverev denied Djokovic’s bid for a “Golden Slam,” a sweep of all four major titles plus Olympic gold, but Djokovic leads their all-time rivalry 6-3.
“He’s the best player in the world” Zverev said. “He’s very difficult to beat. I was the first player to beat him in a very big match this year. That does give you something.”
Zverev is on a 16-match win streak that includes a title last month in Cincinnati. Djokovic didn’t play between the Olympics and the U.S. Open.
Djokovic improved to 4-0 against Berrettini, who was trying to reach his third Grand Slam semifinal.
Berrettini secured the first break with a forehand cross-court winner to seize a 6-5 lead, then squandered three set points before Djokovic sent a forehand wide to surrender a tension-packed first set after 77 minutes.
After dropping the opening set for the third consecutive match, Djokovic broke for a 3-1 lead in the second when Berrettini sent a backhand long, as the powerful Italian struggled to cope with the all-around finesse of Djokovic’s game.
Berrettini netted a backhand to surrender a break in the second set and Djokovic broke again in the second game of the third and again in the final game to claim the set.
A passing forehand winner to break gave Djokovic a 2-0 lead in the fourth set and he held on from there to win in 3 hours, 27 minutes.
“It was a great match, a lot of energy on the court,” Djokovic said.
“When I lost the first set, I managed to forget about it, move on, be in the moment. I was dialed in, locked in from the beginning of the second set and was able to raise my level.”
Zverev was down set point in his opening tiebreaker before Harris sent two forehands long and Zverev blasted a service winner to take the first set.
“He was serving incredible, in the first set especially,” Zverev said. “Somehow was able to win that tiebreaker and that loosened me up.
“I’m really happy to get through in three.”
Zverev broke Harris for a 2-0 lead in the second set and held serve from there. In the third, Zverev broke Harris in the first and third games and won after two hours and six minutes with his 21st ace of the match.
“The level wasn’t quite where it needed to be,” Harris said. “A little disappointing in that regard. Nonetheless, still a lot of positives to take from the week.”
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