San Francisco Chronicle

Djokovic is one win away, and Laver is watching

- By Howard Fendrich Howard Fendrich is an Associated Press writer.

NEW YORK — If Novak Djokovic does complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam for a man since 1969 — and he is headed to the U.S. Open final, just one victory away — he, and everyone else, will remember one particular­ly pivotal, and epic, game along the way.

It came at the conclusion of the third set of what eventually became a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Alexander Zverev in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows on Friday night, making Djokovic 27-0 in major championsh­ips this season.

Beating No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on Sunday for the title would allow Djokovic to secure two significan­t milestones. He would add the 2021 U.S. Open trophy to those he won at the Australian Open in February, French Open in June and Wimbledon in July. And the 34-year-old from Serbia would collect his 21st Slam title in all, breaking the men’s career mark he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The last man to win a calendar slam, now 81-year-old Rod Laver, was seated front and center behind a baseline in the President’s Box.

“There’s only one match left. … All in. Let’s do it,” Djokovic said, spreading his arms wide, in an on-court interview. “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.”

That key game against Zverev featured one extended exchange after another, including a 53-shot, minuteplus point that was the longest of the tournament and actually was lost by Djokovic. Zverev delivered a forehand winner, then hunched over with his hands on his knees. Djokovic went to grab a towel.

Both men were breathing heavily as most of Arthur Ashe Stadium’s 21,139 spectators rose in unison on a cool, crisp evening.

But that one, tiny outcome didn’t matter. Never seems to with Djokovic, especially in best-of-five-set matches on his sport’s most prestigiou­s stages. As usual, he used his superb returning and nevertake-a-rest defense to wear down Zverev.

Djokovic, who has spent more weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings than anyone, figures out what is required to emerge on top and does it. In each of his past four matches — and 10 in all at the Slams this year — he trailed by a set and won.

He equaled Federer by getting to a 31st career Slam final; Djokovic’s total includes a record nine in New York, where he has won three titles.

It will be Slam final No. 3 for Medvedev, a 25-year-old from Russia who has not won a major, and who eliminated 12th-seeded Felix AugerAlias­sime of Canada 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in the afternoon.

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