Djokovic has ten­nis his­tory within grasp at the French Open

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Andrew DAMPF

PARIS — Sure, No­vak Djokovic wants to win each match he plays. And, yes, he wants to come through at key mo­ments, such as when he got bro­ken early in his French Open quar­ter­fi­nal and was in dan­ger of drop­ping a set for the first time in the tour­na­ment.

What mat­ters most to Djokovic, though, is the big pic­ture. And so he’s ex­cited to be two vic­to­ries away from do­ing some­thing only one other man, Rod Laver, ever has in ten­nis: hold­ing all four ma­jor ti­tles at once on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions.

“The longer I play or the fur­ther I go, I guess, in my ca­reer, the sense of his­tory-mak­ing is only get­ting stronger. That’s one of the great­est mo­ti­va­tions I have, ob­vi­ously,” Djokovic said af­ter a me­thod­i­cal 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 dis­man­tling of Alexan­der Zverev on Thurs­day.

Djokovic al­ready won four straight ma­jors in 2015-16. And since his shock­ing loss to un­her­alded Ital­ian player Marco Cecchi­nato in the quar­ter­fi­nals last year at Roland Gar­ros, Djokovic has com­piled a 26-0 record at the Grand Slams, win­ning Wim­ble­don, the U.S. Open, and the Aus­tralian Open along the way.

“There is no bet­ter way to make his­tory of the sport than to win Slams and play your best in the big­gest events,” Djokovic said.

“Those are the pin­na­cle achieve­ments that you can have in our sport.”

Due to Wed­nes­day’s washout, Djokovic will be back on the court with­out a day’s rest for Fri­day’s semi­fi­nals against Do­minic Thiem.

Thiem, last year’s run­ner-up, rolled past 10th-seeded Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 .

In the other semi­fi­nal, 11-time French Open cham­pion Rafael Nadal renews his ri­valry with Roger Fed­erer.

It’s the first time since 2011 that all top four seeds have reached the semi­fi­nals in Paris.

Even if Djokovic raises an­other tro­phy come Sun­day, how­ever, Laver will re­main the only man to have won all four Grand Slams in the same cal­en­dar year twice, in 1962 and 1969.

Yet even Laver is awed by what Djokovic is ac­com­plish­ing.

“I marvel at some­one like No­vak with his abil­ity and his con­sis­tency,” Laver said.

“When you look at the way he plays the game, he doesn’t go bang, bang, bang, ace, vol­leys. He wins every in­di­vid­ual point from the base­line.”

With so much phys­i­cal ex­er­tion, there was a mo­ment against Zverev when Djokovic ap­peared out of breath af­ter send­ing a back­hand wide to give the fifth-seeded Ger­man a break and a chance to serve out the open­ing set.

But Djokovic found his sec­ond wind, started push­ing Zverev back and forth to the cor­ners like a wind­shield wiper, broke right back and reeled off five straight games to take the set and a 3-0 lead in the sec­ond.

“(I) re­ally thought that the first set should have gone my way,” Zverev said.

“Once he’s in con­trol, he’s very tough to beat. He’s world No. 1 for a rea­son.”

AP PHOTO BY MICHEL EULER

Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic plays a shot against Ger­many’s Alexan­der Zverev dur­ing their quar­ter­fi­nal match of the French Open ten­nis tour­na­ment at the Roland Gar­ros sta­dium in Paris on Thurs­day.

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