National Sports

Novak Djokovic now one match from Grand Slam after outlasting Sascha Zverev in 5 sets

One win from history.

Novak Djokovic survived his toughest test thus far at this US Open, outlasting Alexander Zverev in Friday night’s semifinal, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.


Djokovic now sits on the brink of becoming the first man in 52 years to capture the true Grand Slam, defined by winning all four majors in a calendar year. He can also pass rivals Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal with his 21st career major championship.

A lot of significance packed into one match.


“It’s there. I know that people would like me to talk about it, but there’s not much to talk about. There’s only one match left. All in,” Djokovic said. “I have to put my heart, my soul, my body, my mind into that last match. I’m going to treat that match like it’s the last of my career.”

Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his semifinal match Friday night.

His final opponent is second-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who bested 12th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2, in the other semifinal Friday. Medvedev, a 2019 Open finalist, is a viable threat to upend Djokovic’s pursuit. But many pegged Zverev as the most likely to pull off an upset, especially after he toppled Djokovic at the Tokyo Olympics.

Djokovic dropped the first set, just like in his previous three matches, and carried on undeterred. He also recovered from losing a 53-shot rally in the third set, the longest point of the entire US Open.

“It’s a hurricane and a tornado of emotions you’re going through,” Djokovic said. “There’s no escape, you have to find a way. Over the years, I’ve developed a formula that works for me. There’s not one thing I would highlight as the key to my success. It’s a lot of things.”

Zverev, 24, the Olympic gold medalist from Germany, offered some resistance Friday but folded down the stretch. Djokovic’s signature moment was breaking Zverev in the fifth set with an exquisite drop shot following a long rally. Djokovic went up 2-0 and his opponent never recovered.

Novak Djokovic reaches for a forehand.

It raised Djokovic’s career record in five-setters to 36-10, and his experience showed toward the end of Friday’s 3 1/2-hour match.

Zverev, despite his Olympic glory, is still searching for his first major title at 24 years old and committed eight double faults Friday. The fourth-seed also entered this tournament under controversy because a former girlfriend, Olga Sharypova, accused him of domestic abuse. Zverev denied it.

“He’s a great guy and even a better player,” Djokovic said of Zverev. “I knew it was going to be a great battle. I hope that we brought the energy and a show for all of you who came to the stadium.”


Ashe Stadium was half empty at the start because of a late-arriving crowd, and the match was even delayed about 30 minutes to accommodate the unpunctual New Yorkers. ESPN blamed the tardiness on gridlock caused by President Joe Biden’s arrival at a nearby airport for Saturday’s 9/11 memorial in Manhattan.

Djokovic, 34, is vying for his fourth US Open title and first since 2018. He was ejected from the tournament last year after accidentally forehanding a ball into the throat of a lineswoman. The last man to complete the calendar Grand Slam was Rod Laver in 1969. Laver had a seat for Friday’s match at Ashe.

Medvedev, 25, is gunning for his first Open title and understands his role as spoiler.

“I’m just going to throw it everything, and I’m definitely not going to be thinking about Grand Slam or whatever,” he said.