The Washington Post Sunday
Djokovic seeks one more win for two milestones
new york — Novak Djokovic remembers just how close Serena Williams came to a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015 before coming up short at the U.S. Open.
He recalls chatting with Williams during that tournament about all that went along with a bid for the rare achievement, which has been accomplished by only two men and three women.
After winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, Williams was upset in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows by Roberta Vinci. Now Djokovic heads into the U.S. Open final on Sunday against Daniil Medvedev needing one more victory to claim all four titles in one season.
No man has done that since Rod Laver in 1969, for a second time, and no woman since Steffi Graf in 1988.
In addition to that quest, the top-ranked Djokovic, 34, has another milestone in his sights.
If he beats No. 2 Medvedev for a 21st career major championship, Djokovic would eclipse the men’s record he currently shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. A fourth title on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows would be added to a ninth on the hard courts of Melbourne Park in February, second on the clay of Roland Garros in June and sixth on the grass of Wimbledon in July.
This will be Djokovic’s recordtying 31st Grand Slam final and record-setting ninth at the U.S. Open.
“If you look at the stats, if you look at the pure game of tennis action, he’s the greatest of all time,” Alexander Zverev said. “Nobody is there with him, because [he has the] most weeks world No. 1, most Masters 1000s titles, most likely going to be the most Grand Slams, at the end of the day. And he has the chance of winning all four in the same year. How do you compete with that?”
With all in the offing against Medvedev, how does Djokovic prepare to be at his best?
“I know we want to talk about history. I know it’s on the line. I’m aware of it. Of course I’m aware of it. But I’m just trying to lock into what I know works for me,” Djokovic said. “I have my routines. I have my people. I isolate myself. I gather all the necessary energy for the next battle, only the next match, the next match.”
His mental toughness might be his greatest attribute.
“He plays the best tennis when he needs to, which a lot of players don’t,” said Zverev, the Tokyo Olympics gold medalist and 2020 U.S. Open runner-up.
“Mentally, he’s the best player to ever play the game. Mentally, in the most important moments, I would rather play against anybody else but him.”
Medvedev, 25, knows that if he wins, he’ll “probably be in the history books a little bit somewhere, [for] not letting him do this. But I don’t really care about it. I think it’s more about him, that it affects him.
“From one side, for sure he’s going to feel the pressure a little bit about it,” Medvedev said. “From the other side, that is what is going to make him be even better in tough moments.”