NEW YORK – Novak Djokovic recalls how close Serena Williams came to the calendar year Grand Slam in 2015 before falling short at the US Open.
He recalls interacting with Williams during that tournament, with a bid for the rare feat that has been accomplished by only two men and three women in a sport’s history until the late 1800s.
After winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, Williams was upset in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows by Roberta Vinci. Now Djokovic is one step closer, needing another win to go 28-0 in the Grand Slam tournament to reach the US Open final against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday and claim all four trophies in a single season. did.
Rod Laver has done so for the second time in 1969, a feat no woman has done since Steffi Graf in 1988. (Laver was in the stands for Friday’s semi-final and is expected to be there on Sunday as well).
As the last line neared six years ago, Williams was not fond of discussing what was at stake, describing himself as “fed up” by constant questions about the true Grand Slam.
“She was very passionate about what was going on. I can relate to what she is going through now. I understand it now,” said Djokovic, 34, from Serbia. “I understand that Why did she want to avoid all the questions about it, because at the end of the day, you have to go to court and deliver. You are always expected to win.”
Like Williams, Djokovic has recently tried to limit his discussion of what he is trying to do.
“I’ll give everything I’ve possibly got in the tank to win this match. I’m focused on recovery, basically rearranging all systems for Sunday,” he No. 4 Alexander Zverev after defeating 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the semi-finals. “I’m not going to waste time or energy on anything What may just be a distraction and deprive me of the vital energy I need.”
Apart from wanting to take 4 for 4 at the Slam, No 1-ranked Djokovic has another milestone.
2 Medvedev for the 21st career major championship, Djokovic will break the men’s record, which he currently shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. A fourth title on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows will be added to the ninth at Melbourne Park’s hard courts in February, the second on Roland Garros soil in June and the sixth on Wimbledon grass in July.
This would be Djokovic’s record 31st Grand Slam final and a record-setting ninth at the US Open.
“If you look at the statistics, if you look at the pure game of tennis action, he is the greatest player of all time,” Zverev said. “No one is with him, because (he has) the world No. 1 most weeks, most Masters 1000 titles, most Grand Slam chances, at the end of the day. And he has all four in the same year.” There’s a chance to win. How do you combat it?”
With Medvedev all set, 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 figure out what I know That works for me,” said Djokovic. “I have my own routine. I have my people. I isolate myself. I gather all the energy I need for the next fight, only the next match, the next match. “
That tunnel vision is essential to him, he says. His mental toughness may be his greatest attribute.
“He plays the best tennis when he needs to, which a lot of players don’t,” said Tokyo Olympic gold medalist and 2020 US Open runner-up.
“Mentally, he is the best player ever to play the game,” said the 24-year-old German. “Mentally, in the most crucial moments, I would love to play against someone other than him.”
Djokovic, naturally, likes that assessment.
He built that reputation when it mattered most, regardless of what losses he had to deal with. Djokovic’s win over Zverev made him 36-10 in the five-setter for the rest of his career and it was his fourth consecutive win – 10th in a Grand Slam match this year – after skipping the opening set.
“The players know that there is a never-ending feeling with me, especially when I play Grand Slams. They know that things can change until the last shot, which has happened on several occasions throughout my career,” Djokovic said. “So I’m glad that my opponents think that way of me. I want them to feel that they are under immense pressure.”
Now it’s Medvedev’s turn to join Djokovic in the fourth No. 1 vs. No. 2 final in New York in the past 25 years.
The match was set as a book: it was Medvedev who lost to Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open seven months earlier.
If Medvedev wins, he knows he’ll probably be somewhere in the history books, (because) won’t let him. But I don’t really care. I guess it’s more about him That it affects him,” said the 25-year-old Russian, who is looking for his first major trophy.
“Aside from that, of course he’s going to feel a little bit pressured about it,” Medvedev said. “On the other hand, that’s what’s going to make him even better in tough moments.”