Djokovic Moves Closer To History With Berrettini Win

Novak Djokovic (photo: Jed Jacobsohn/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 9, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

It took a set for Novak Djokovic to dial in during his US Open quarterfinal match against Matteo Berrettini on Arthur Ashe Stadium Wednesday night. However, once he did, the World No. 1 from Serbia didn’t disappoint the fans or himself.

The top-seeded Djokovic’s 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Berrettini of Italy in three hours and 26 minutes, in a rematch of the Wimbledon Championships final from July, advanced him to his 12th US Open semifinal. As he did in his previous two matches, against Kei Nishikori and Jenson Brooksby, Djokovic ceded the opening set, then raised the level of his game.

“When I lost the first set, I managed to forget about it, move on, kind of be in the moment,” Djokovic said early Thursday morning after his victory. “I was dialed in. I think I was locked in, really, from the beginning of the second set.

“I put my tennis to a different level, and it’s been the best three sets I’ve played so far in the tournament, for sure.”

Djokovic hit 44 winners, including 12 aces, to 28 unforced errors while winning 74 percent (53 of 72) of his first-serve points. He was broken just once – during the one-hour, 16-minute opening set – while converting five of 16 break points against Berrettini, who finished with 17 aces and 42 winners but committed 43 unforced errors. Djokovic outpointed his opponent 146-117.

“First set I had some chances,” Djokovic said. “He made a break in the 11th game. He deserved to win it. He deserved to win the first set. There were just a lot of emotions and things.

“I was just calm at that point. Said, ‘Whatever happened, move on.’ Then I felt I kind of reached another level of focus and calmness at the same time that helped me, I guess, read his game better, perfect my game. It resulted with a win.”

The victory was Djokovic’s 26th consecutive victory in a major – he remains unbeaten in US Open quarterfinals – and also his 80th win at Flushing Meadows, tied with Andre Agassi for third-most in the Open Era. It set up a Friday evening clash with Olympic champion and No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, who earlier Wednesday beat unseeded and 46th-ranked Lloyd Harris of South Africa, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-4. Djokovic remains very much in contention for a fourth US Open title.

Djokovic, 34, is now just two victories shy of winning a record-setting 21st major title that would surpass his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. All are tied with 20. Another US Open title would also wrap up a calendar-year Grand Slam – winning all four majors in a single season – a feat that was last accomplished in men’s tennis by Australia’s Rod Laver in 1969.

Looking back of his victory against Berrettini, 25, Djokovic described his tussle with the World No. 8 as “a great match. A lot of energy on the court, off the court as well.

“Matteo is a terrific player, an established Top 10 player,” he said. “Every time we face each other, it’s always a close battle. It wasn’t any different tonight.”

Wednesday’s quarterfinal marked the third time that Djokovic and Berrettini have met this season. Each time has been at a major – Roland Garros quarterfinals, Wimbledon final and now US Open quarterfinals. Each has been won in four sets by Djokovic, who improved to 4-0 against the Italian from Rome. Berrettini fell to 0-6 against Top 10 players at the majors.

“I like to play best-of-five, especially against the younger guys. I think the experience of being on the big stage so many times does help,” Djokovic said. “Physically I feel as fit as anybody out there. So I can go the distance. Actually I like to go the distance. The longer the match goes, I feel like I don’t have any issues. I think I have a better chance than any other opponent. So that’s all.

“Of course, I want to start off well and win in straight sets. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes it happens that you go through ups and downs during the match, particularly when you play against the best players in the world in the latter stages of Grand Slams.

“I’m going to be ready to go five sets, five hours, whatever it takes. That’s why I’m here.”

Wednesday’s US Open results

Thursday’s US Open order of play

Gauff/McNally reach US Open womens’ doubles final four

American teenagers Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, dubbed Team McCoco, are two wins from winning the US Open women’s doubles title, which would be their first major doubles crown. Three years ago, they won the US Open girls’ doubles title.

On Wednesday, Gauff and McNally beat top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan and Elise Mertens of Belgium, 6-3, 7-6 (1) in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Hsieh was in pursuit of her fifth major doubles title and second playing with Mertens.

Next, the No. 11 seeds Gauff and McNally will face No. 5 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Luisa Stefani of Brazil in Friday’s semifinals. The Canadian/Brazilian duo advanced over No. 15 seeds Marie Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Repubic, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

“Today was a really tough match,” McNally, 19, said. “Going into it we knew it was going to be very tricky. “Su-Wei brings a different type of game style than anyone we’ve seen before. You have to stay on your toes and be ready for pretty much everything, which I think we did a great job.”

Gauff, 17, who did not face a break point and held half of her six service games at love, added: “I think today we just competed really well for every point. Going into the match, we knew they were going to be a tough team to beat. They’re not the No. 1 seeds for no reason. I’m glad we brough our A game today.”

The other semifinal will match No. 7 seeds Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States against No. 14 seeds Samantha Stosur of Australia and Zhang Shuai of China.

Murray/Soares remain in chase for second US Open doubles title

No. 7 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil, who won the 2016 US Open men’s doubles title, remain in the chase for a second New York major crown. On Thursday, they will face No. 8 seeds John Peers of Australia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia, after knocking out the No. 2 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, on Tuesday.

The other semifinal has a very American feel to it as unseeded Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey of the United States, friends since childhood, will play No. 4 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain after beating No. 6 seeds Kevin Krawietz of Germany and Horia Tecau of Romania, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

“When we get so caught up in the X’s and O’s, we overthink things sometimes,” Johnson said earlier this week. “So for us, when we see the ball and hit the ball, it may not be the perfect strategy, but on returns or how we like to play on our serve, we feel like if we do what we need to do, we’ll have a good chance to win.”

Johnson and Querrey are into their second major semifinal and first since 2015.

“The teams just get better and better,” Querrey admits. “Rajeev and Joe have had a great couple of years, so we have to think about that one and hopefully we can play well and get through.”

Junior singles quarterfinals includes four Americans

While boys’ and girls’ top seeds Juncheng “Jerry” Shang of China and Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andora have reached the quarterfinal round of the US Open juniors competition, just as they have in each junior major this season, there are also four Americans, who have advanced to the last eight.

No. 2 seed Samir Banerjee and No. 6 seed Victor Lilov, who met in the Wimbledon junior finals, remain in contention in the boys’ tournament, while No. 7 seed Robin Montgomery and No. 12 seed Elina Kalieva are alive in the girls’ draw.

Banerjee of New Jersey, the reigning Wimbledon boys’ champion, advanced to the last eight with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 15 seed Maks Kasnikowski of Poland. Next, he plays No. 8 seed Jerome Kym of Switzerland, a member of the Swiss Davis Cup team.

Montgomery, 17, the top American girl, advanced with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 win over No. 9 seed Natalia Szabanin of Hungary. She has reached the quarterfinals in three junior majors, including the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 French Open. Next, Montgomery of Washington, D.C., will play No. 1 seed Jimenez Kasintseva.

There are six seeds remaining in the boys’ draw, while there are five left in the girls draw.