Never fazed, rarely flummoxed, Novak Djokovic is so collected in best-of-five-set matches even when falling behind, as he has done repeatedly at the U.S. Open. No opponent, or the prospect of what is at stake, has been an excessive amount of to handle. Not yet, anyway. And now he’s two wins far away from the primary calendar-year slam in men’s tennis since 1969, alongside a men’s-record 21st major championship overall.
Djokovic ceded the opening set for the third consecutive match at Flushing Meadows — and ninth time at a serious in 2021 — but again it didn’t matter, because he quickly corrected his strokes and beat No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 during a quarterfinal that began Wednesday night and concluded after midnight Thursday.
As he came back, his eyes squarely on his end goals, Djokovic found every angle, thwarted every big Berrettini shot, and was so locked in the dove and dropped his racket during one exchange yet scrambled, rose, and reinserted himself within the point. He lost it, but the message to his foe was unmistakable, essentially amounting to, “I will do whatever it takes.” After 17 unforced errors within the first set, Djokovic made a complete of 11 the remainder of the way.
When Berrettini made one last stand, holding an opportunity point while trailing 4-2 within the third set, Djokovic steadied himself. He let Berrettini put a backhand into the internet, then conjured up a 121 mph ace and a forehand winner down the road to carry, then pointed his right index to his ear — one among many gestures asking the 20,299 within the Ashe Stadium stands for noise. Four minutes later, that set was his. And 42 minutes later, the match was.
Showing off the shots and poise of somebody far more experienced, 18-year-old Emma Raducanu became the second unseeded teen in two days to secure a spot within the women’s final four, eliminating Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4. She is that the first qualifier within the professional era to succeed in the U.S. Open semifinals. and she or he hasn’t even dropped a group yet.
Not bad for somebody ranked outside the highest 350 in June after going about 1 1/2 years without a match — partially due to the coronavirus pandemic, partially because her parents wanted her to end high school. “I’m not here to chase any records immediately,” said Raducanu, only the third woman not ranked within the top 100 to form it this far at the U.S. Open and only the fourth qualifier to advance to the semifinals at any major tournament since the Open era began in 1968. “I’m just taking care of what I can do (in) the instant .”
Djokovic is 26-0 in major tournaments this season, including trophies on the Australian Open’s hard courts in February, the French Open’s clay courts in June, and Wimbledon’s grass courts in July. He beat Berrettini within the final at the All England Club.
Djokovic has added five victories on the U.S. Open’s hard courts and can face 2020 runner-up Alexander Zverev in Friday’s semifinals. If Djokovic can win that match and Sunday’s final, he will join Budge (1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) because the only men to say all four major tennis singles trophies in one season. (Three women have done it, last Graf in 1988; Serena Williams’ bid in 2015 led to the U.S. Open semifinals).
One more Slam title also will break the career mark Djokovic currently shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Zverev goes into the semifinals on a 16-match streak, including a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 semifinal triumph against Djokovic on the way to the trophy at the Tokyo Olympics. The No. 4-seeded Zverev, a 24-year-old German, advanced to the semifinals in NY on Wednesday afternoon by beating Lloyd Harris 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-4. Raducanu made her slam debut at Wimbledon because of a wild-card invitation and she or he made it to the fourth round before stopping during that match when she had trouble breathing.
That tournament allowed the planet to start to urge conversant in her sort of crisp, clean tennis, managing to attack early in points from the baseline without sacrificing accuracy. By the top against the 11th-seeded Bencic, a U.S. Open semifinalist in 2019, Raducanu had nearly twice as many winners as unforced errors, 23-12. She also showed gumption, both at the start, when she was undaunted by a 3-1 deficit and claimed subsequent five games, and at the top when she fell behind love-30 each of the last twice she served before hanging on.
“Obviously, she’s very solid,” said Bencic, who hadn’t dropped a group within the tournament before Wednesday, “to just quite stay tough till the top and just play her game and type of not let me in again.” When Bencic double-faulted to urge broken and fall behind 3-2 within the second set, she trudged, slow as are often, to a corner of the court to retrieve her towel. When she need to her sideline seat, she whacked her racket against her equipment bag, then plopped herself down and smacked the racket against the bottom. Raducanu jogged to the sideline, showered in applause and cheers from the gang.