“When the friend you have loved for years suddenly breaks up with you.”
Alexander Zverev (24) about his emotional state after the US Open in New York.
What a fight, what a drama! The Olympic champion must continue to wait for his first Grand Slam title and for him to beat a top 10 player in a major. That didn’t work on the eleventh attempt either.
In the semifinals, the new edition of the Olympic semifinals, the Hamburger lost against world number one Novak Djokovic (34) 6: 4, 2: 6, 4: 6, 6: 4, 2: 6. After 3:35 hours, the Serb converted his first match point.
“It was a great battle. Except for the start of the fifth set. He showed why he is number 1 in the world. In the crucial moments he served better than me and deserved to be in the final, ”said Zverev.
There it goes for him on Sunday against the Russian Daniil Medwedew (25), who swept the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime (21) 6: 4, 7: 5, 6: 2 off in his semifinals. Now Djokovic can win his 21st Grand Slam title and would leave Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal behind.
As suspected, it was a close game in which neither of them gave each other anything for a long time. From the beginning there were sometimes spectacular rallies, which led the spectators on both sides to hurricane-like emotional outbursts. In Tokyo, Zverev was still ahead of the game, now it was about three instead of two winning sets and Djokovic turned the tables again.
Zverev went into the game highly concentrated, not only acting and reacting and patiently waiting for his chance. It came at 4: 4 when he took the serve from Djokovic. He easily won the following service game and thus the first set 6: 4.
The start of the second round then went completely wrong. Inexplicable slight mistakes, exactly what was not allowed to happen, as Zverev himself explained before the game. “You have to play perfectly,” he said.
He was now far from that, Djokovic quickly led 3-0 and could not be taken away from the lead. With the second break he got the set 6-2.
But the five-time Masters winner quickly recovered. At 2-2 in the third set, he even had two breakballs, which he missed. He struggled with the line technology, as he did recently, and saw Djokovic’s point to make it 3-2 out of bounds. But of course the system does not correct itself.
The match was now world-class. The last game of the set, in which Djokovic Zverev took the serve and finished it 6: 4, was probably the best of the entire tournament.
Three unbelievable rallies, in which the audience could hardly be tamed, showed what level both are on. In the longest rally, the ball went back and forth 53 times.
That’s a world record for a match. Pete Sampras (50) and Andre Agassi (51), who chased the ball back and forth 51 times in the final of the US Open, have held the old one since 1999.
Of course, Zverev did not give up. He had a brief problem at the beginning of the fourth movement when something caught his eye. Since there are contact lenses there too, it took him a few seconds to resolve the dilemma.
At least that didn’t get him out of the rhythm. He took Djokovic’s serve again after a long time and served the set to 6: 4. So it went into the showdown that so many had expected.
Paris Hilton (40) was also enthusiastic about the game. The model, born in New York, watched the game from a box. Ex-ice hockey star Henrik Lundqvist (39), who left the New York Rangers a year ago, did not miss the spectacle.
Fifth movement, the atmosphere in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is jam-packed with 24,000 people, was splendid. However, it was now faster than expected and hoped from the German point of view, because Zverev weakened during his serve in the decisive phase.
“Mentally, Novak is the best I’ve ever played against. Suddenly it turns into a wall and you can’t get through there, ”says Zverev, describing the feeling on the pitch. “Although I have to say that the second break was very unfortunate.”
Djokovic thanked him politely and took the chances ice cold. Two breaks to 4-0, their own service games through, that was the seventh win in the tenth game against the German. He had success again at 1: 5 with the fifth breakball, but in the end the round went 6: 2 to Djokovic.
“He plays his best tennis when he has to. There is a reason why he is number 1 most weeks and why he has 20 Grand Slam titles, ”said Zverev, who also wished him online that he would win the final. “Hopefully we’ll see history on Sunday.”
Tennis legend Rod Laver (83), who arrived in New York and watched the game from the box, is the only player still alive to have made it to the Grand Slam, i.e. to win all four majors in one calendar year (1962, 1969) .
He may now be able to honor Djokovic on Sunday as the third player to win all four Grand Slams in one year after him and Don Budge († 84/1938).