5 min read
While the biggest news on the women’s side of the 2021 US Open has been teenage newcomers, Novak Djokovic has maintained his grip on chasing history. The World No. 1 is just two matches away from completing the calendar-year Grand Slam and picking up his record 21st Grand Slam.
In Wednesday’s quarterfinals, Alexander Zverev eased past unseeded Lloyd Harris in straight sets and Djokovic bounced back from a first-set loss to top Matteo Berrettini, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
“Every time we face each other, it’s always a close battle,” Djokovic said. “It wasn’t any different tonight. When I lost the first set, I managed to forget about it, kind of be in the moment. I was dialed in, locked in from the beginning of the second set. I put my tennis to a different level. It’s been the best three sets I’ve played in the tournament so far, for sure.”
On Friday, Djokovic and Zverev will battle in a rematch of the Tokyo semifinals that Zverev would win on his way to the gold medal.
The bottom half of the draw will see first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Felix Auger-Aliassime take on No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev. Getting an extra helping of recovery time, Auger-Aliassime benefited from a second-set retirement from teenager Carlos Alcaraz on Tuesday. Medvedev overcame a challenge from surprise quarterfinalist Botic van de Zandschulp in four sets.
Universal Tennis INSIGHTS has the lowdown on the men’s semifinal matchups:
(2) Daniil Medvedev (UTR Rating 16.05) vs. (12) Felix Auger-Aliassime (UTR Rating 15.48)
Auger-Aliassime and Medvedev have shared a court just once, in 2018 with Medvedev squeaking out a third-set tiebreak. Per INSIGHTS, Medvedev is a big favorite at 81% odds of reaching his second US Open final. He has the higher UTR Rating by +0.57 and higher three-month Trending UTR Rating by + 0.45. His record versus common opponents is better, and his best win is as good as it can be with Djokovic.
This year, Medvedev started with a run to the Australian Open final and picks up three titles, the biggest being Toronto for his third ATP Masters 1000 crown. Auger-Aliassime has yet to win a title after appearing in eight ATP finals, including two this year. The 21-year-old Canadian has enjoyed a major breakthrough in 2021 in a run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals and now this semifinal showing.
He and fellow semifinalist, 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez, are making Canada proud this fortnight.
“It’s great for Canada,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It’s great for Quebec. We’re both born in Montreal. I mean, I never thought a day like this would come. Both a little girl and a little boy from Montreal, both at the same time in the semifinals of the US Open. It’s special for us. I hope the people back home appreciate the moment also. We do a lot. But it would be amazing if we were both in a final, right?”
(1) Novak Djokovic (UTR Rating 16.22) vs. (4) Alexander Zverev (UTR Rating 15.98)
According to INSIGHTS, Djokovic is favored to beat Zverev at 65% odds, but it’s going to be his biggest obstacle yet. The 34-year-old Serbian lost to Zverev just a few weeks ago at the Olympics in lopsided fashion, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.
“This year, it seems like nobody can beat him in a big match, nobody can beat him at the Grand Slams,” Zverev said. “I feel like I was the first player to beat him in a very big match. That does give you something.”
Before Tokyo, Djokovic had beaten the German five times in a row. Djokovic has the edge in UTR Ratings, and his win-loss record over the last 15 months is 70-11 compared to Zverev’s 68-20. Zverev has the advantage in record versus common opponents.
"I know it's going to be battle, even harder than it was today, but I'm ready for it," Djokovic said. "Look, these are the hurdles that I need to overcome in order to get to the desired destination. Result is something that I can't predict, but I can definitely put myself in the best possible state of mind and body to perform as well as I can."
The pressure on Djokovic’s shoulders is unimaginable while Zverev will going into the encounter with confidence after dropping just one set in five matches. One thing is for certain: Fans can expect exciting battles inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday.
•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9 a.m. EST, Sept. 9, 2021.