The Washington Post

Djokovic survives Zverev in five, will meet Medvedev in final.

U.S. Open women’s final: Today, 4 p.m., ESPN

- BY LIZ CLARKE liz.clarke@washpost.com

new york — If there were any doubt about the lengths to which Novak Djokovic is prepared to go in pursuit of the Grand Slam that’s nearly in hand, it was answered Friday night in his five-set U.S. Open semifinal against Alexander Zverev, a hard-hitting German who’s a decade younger.

In protracted rally after rally, Djokovic produced whatever was required to reassert his dominance over a 3-hour 34-minute slugfest marked by multiple momentum shifts and shot-making brilliance. He blasted aces and service winners on break points. He retrieved unretrieva­ble balls. He applied masterful touch on devilish drop shots. And he kept his calm to subdue his toughest challenger yet, defeating the fourth-ranked Zverev, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

The victory sends the topranked Serbian into Sunday’s final, where he will face Daniil Medvedev of Russia for the 21st major that would break his tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in men’s tennis history. Moreover, he would become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Grand Slam, sweeping all four majors in the same year.

Djokovic thanked the crowd for what he called the best atmosphere of the tournament.

“These are the moments we live for — the kind of unique opportunit­ies that we dream of every day when we wake up and are trying to find motivation to go out there and do the same thing over and over again,” he told ESPN’S Patrick Mcenroe during his on-court interview after the win.

Asked about the Grand Slam, Djokovic didn’t hesitate. “There is only one match left. All in!” Djokovic said. “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.”

Medvedev needed just 2 hours 4 minutes to dispatch Canada’s Felix Auger-aliassime, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2, in Friday’s earlier semifinal.

It will be Medvedev’s third appearance in a Grand Slam final. He fell to Djokovic in straight sets in the 2021 Australian Open championsh­ip and lost the 2019 U.S. Open final to Nadal in a five-set thriller.

After easing past Auger-aliassime, Medvedev said he would bring new intensity to Sunday’s final after getting soundly outplayed by Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open final in Melbourne.

“I always give my best, but I feel like I didn’t leave my heart on the court in Melbourne,” said Medvedev, who has a 3-5 record against Djokovic. “That’s what I’m going to try to do on Arthur Ashe [Stadium] with hopefully 100 percent of [the] fans. No matter the score, I’m just going to turn up the heat, if I can say, and try to do my best, even more than what I did in Melbourne.”

The 6-foot-6 Zverev, 24, was just the second seeded player Djokovic had faced all tournament.

He was also the last man to beat Djokovic, scuttling his pursuit of a Golden Slam — the achievemen­t of winning all four majors and Olympic singles gold the same year — with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory in the semifinals of the Tokyo Games last month.

With Laver among the crowd of 21,139 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, it was a perfect night for tennis, cool and clear after the previous day’s rain, so the retractabl­e roof was open when the players walked out at roughly 7:30 p.m.

For the fourth consecutiv­e match, Djokovic lost the opening set but rebounded to claim the second and level the score.

He carried the momentum into the third set, but Zverev raised his game, which forced Djokovic to do the same.

The Serb showed beautiful touch on drop shots, chased down balls that looked hopelessly beyond his reach and, when facing break points, bounced the ball 10 or more times, as if casting a spell, and produced surgically placed service winners.

The point of the match came with Zverev serving at 4-5. Shot after shot, they traded backhands of exceptiona­l depth and pace. Zverev won the point on the 53rd stroke to stave off one of two remaining break points. The crowd shot to its feet, cheering both players’ relentless drive as they took great gulps of air.

Djokovic proceeded to win the next point and, with it, deliver a gut punch to the German by taking a two-sets-to-one lead.

Zverev got a huge lift from breaking Djokovic early in the fourth set with a blistering forehand down the line.

He held the advantage and leveled the match to force a fifth set — the first fifth set for either man during the tournament.

Djokovic had reason to flap his arms and demand applause as if a mad maestro of the racket for the wicked drop shot and forehand winner he struck to break Zverev early in the deciding set after lulling him into a rhythm of pace.

From that front-running spot, the Serb didn’t falter, closing the final set with relative ease.

 ?? SETH WENIG/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Novak Djokovic beat Alexander Zverev in five sets and has one hurdle left, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.
SETH WENIG/ASSOCIATED PRESS Novak Djokovic beat Alexander Zverev in five sets and has one hurdle left, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

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