Will Djokovic be motivated when he aims for the calendar-year Grand Slam and a record 21st major on Sunday?
â€œLetâ€™s do it. Iâ€™m going to treat the next match like itâ€™s the last match of my career.â€
Join us on Sunday, wonâ€™t you? See you then.
Zverev manages to make Djokovic laugh with whatever he said at the net, then walks down the tunnel with his head in his hands.
Djokovic: â€œThe atmosphere was amazing, the best of the tournament so far. Thank you so much. These are the moments we live for.â€
He also praises Zverev — â€œheâ€™s a big champion, heâ€™s someone I admire on and off the court.â€
Djokovic advances to U.S. Open final
Djokovic wins another battle at the net, leaving Zverev looking like a guy in a teen movie who just lost his girlfriend to the bad guy. Unlike most teen-movie stars, Zverev has a devastating forehand. 15-15.
What a classic clash of styles this has been. Zverev has a cannon for a right arm. Djokovic is playing like a painter. Those traits are evident on back-to-back points — an ace followed by a drop shot.
But this game ends with two horrid errors on points Zverev was controlling. On the first, Zverev races to cover a drop shot, only to put his shot long. On break point, Zverev again forces a desperation shot from Djokovic, this one hanging in the air until Zverev smashes through it — and hits it well long. This might be about over.
Djokovic finishes a routine hold with back-to-back aces.
One big winner tonight, no matter what happens over the next 3-9 games, is Daniil Medvedev, who is comfortably watching as his two prospective opponents in the final stay out for more than three hours. Each man has covered more than 6,300 meters.
Oh dear. Zverevâ€™s eighth double fault puts him down 15-30. He faults again and finally lobs in a tepid second serve, but he excels in the rest of the rally and ends with a smash.
Another error later, itâ€™s break point. Another fault later, Zverevâ€™s discomfort is palpable.
Then itâ€™s one of several outstanding points in this match and the most meaningful of the lot. A 30-shot rally in which the momentum swings back and forth ends with a Djokovic winner, set up by another drop shot.
This one is made more eventful by a pair of Djokovic errors, but he storms back with another successful net approach. Another error takes it to deuce, but Djokovic seems to be saving his best serves for such occasions. On the next point, Zverev is on the run and attempts to lob Djokovic, only to find himself fending off a smash thatâ€™s nearly right at him. Another hold, but Zverev is now serving for the set.
Djokovicâ€™s passing shots are making Zverev think twice about approaching the net. Zverev gets this game to 30-30 and gets to a Djokovic drop shot but bungles it.
Zverev, though, simply wonâ€™t let this be easy. A forehand smash takes it to deuce. Off the top of my head, I canâ€™t remember Djokovic losing a point at deuce, and he doesnâ€™t lose this one, either. An error takes us back to deuce, so maybe this one?
Yes! Djokovic runs Zverev from side to side, but he hangs in there and pounces on a shot that sails up into the air, merrily smashing it to get break point. Djokovic saves that one, then hits one long to give up another opportunity.
Zverev takes control this time. Djokovic has to scramble to his right. Zverev puts his next shot to the other side of the court, and Djokovic simply watches it sail by.
Zverevâ€™s difficulties are momentarily compounded by an eye problem. He tells the chair umpire he believes itâ€™s a bug. It clears up, and he manages to get the game to 30-30. Then he flails at the next two Djokovic serves.
Djokovic wins the third set
End third set: *Djokovic 4-6 6-2 6-4 Zverev (*denotes next server)
A couple of epic rallies end in Zverev unforced errors, the second missing the lin6 by perhaps a millimeter. In American terms, thatâ€™s about 1 zillionth of an inch.
The next point ends with Zverev missing by about 100 feet, a complete mishit that flies away. Three break points for Djokovic.
Zverev holds his nerve through a 21-shot rally. Any mistake now will put Djokovic up 2-1, and he simply doesnâ€™t lose from there.
The next rally is a classic — 53 shots! As the crowd buzzes, Zverev ends it with a forehand winner past an exhausted Djokovic.
But Zverev canâ€™t hold back the tide. He returns two shots that would be winners against most players, but Djokovic smashes the next. Heâ€™s only one set down, but Zverevâ€™s path back is a hill of Everestian proportions, given Djokovicâ€™s fourth- and fifth-set master.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 6-2 5-4 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
This time, the lob works, but itâ€™s the drop shot that did the work, forcing Zverev all the way up to the net and leaving plenty of open court space in which to hit. Djokovic errs in the next point but hits a shot dead-perfect on the line to go up 30-15. A strong serve leaves Djokovic in complete control of the next point, and Zverev is talking to himself. (We think.) Service winner, and Zverev must serve to stay in the set.
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 6-2 4-4 Zverev (*denotes next server)
On the first point, Zverevâ€™s second serve is 134 mph. Itâ€™s just not in. But Zverev wins the next. Djokovic tries to lob his towering opponent at 15-15, only to watch the ball smashed elsewhere.
An unforced error, though, makes it 30-30. Zverev calmly responds with two service winners. Can we just skip to the tiebreaker?
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 6-2 4-3 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
Zverev lets another chance go begging, and it shows in the grimace on his face. After pushing Djokovic around the court, Zverev stands at the net with the court at his mercy, and he dinks a volley into the net. The technology that determines whether line calls are correct informs us that the ball Zverev opted to his wouldâ€™ve gone way long. John McEnroe is bemused by the predictive ability of these animations. Must not watch a lot of cricket.
Zverev tries a drop shot, and Djokovic simply dinks it back over to hold.
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 6-2 3-3 Zverev (*denotes next server)
Three aces in four points, and Djokovic barely looks at the last. Zverev has won 71 points to Djokovicâ€™s 68.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 6-2 3-2 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
Live by the drop shot, lose by the drop shot. Djokovic tries one that slips harmlessly into the net, and Zverev goes up 15-30.
Live by the net approach, lose by the net approach. Djokovic gets aggressive again, and Zverev rips a shot past him down the line to go up 15-40.
But oh, that precision serve. An unreturned shot and an ace wipe out the two break points. Zverev hits a shot long on the next point, but Djokovic canâ€™t close it out on the next. Deuce #2.
Solid Djokovic winner. Unforced Djokovic … oh, that was in? Oh. OK then. Hold. I need a new TV.
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 6-2 2-2 Zverev (*denotes next server)
An even game — Djokovic hits two unforced errors with his forehand and two with his backhand as Zverev holds at love.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 6-2 2-1 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
An ace just inside the line takes it to 40-15, but Djokovic overreaches in a short rally on the next point. Then he hits an ace just inside the other line center for the hold. His serve isnâ€™t as powerful as Zverevâ€™s (average serve speed: Zverev 121 mph, Djokovic 108 mph), but his placement is otherworldly, and he varies things just enough to keep Zverev guessing.
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 6-2 1-1 Zverev (*denotes next server)
Djokovic again shows off his finesse at the net to make it 40-30, but his return of the next point finds nothing but net.
Djokovic also might have a small issue with his back. How these guys donâ€™t completely fall apart on the court like a cheap robot is beyond me.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 6-2 1-0 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
Well now. Zverevâ€™s power keeps Djokovic on the run and wraps up two big points. Djokovic takes the next two, but Zverev forces Djokovic to go wide and gets up toward the net for an easy backhand volley and a break point.
Djokovic answers with another successful net approach, dipping his racket almost to the court surface and letting the ball bounce gently over the net for a delicate winner that propels him through the rest of the game.
Djokovic wins the second set
End second set: *Djokovic 4-6 6-2 Zverev (*denotes next server)
Just when you think Zverev has rebounded from his early-set difficulties, he opens this game with an error and a double fault. He follows with an ace, then hits a cross-court shot wide to give Djokovic two break points. He erases the first with an ace. But then he sends a simple backhand long, and thatâ€™s another break for Djokovic in a set in which the Grand Slam contender was able to coast while his challenger came unglued.
And now Djokovic gets to serve to start the third …
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 5-2 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic shakes off a couple of unforced errors with an ace, and this set seems to be little more than prelude to the next one.
Second set: *Djokovic 4-6 4-2 Zverev (*denotes next server)
Djokovic shakes his head several times between games, then makes an incomprehensible gesture. No idea what that means.
A double fault at 30-0 provides Djokovic a point, but Zverev takes the next and wraps up the game on a precise forehand.
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 4-1 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
Zverev paints the line for a neat winner to make it 15-all. On the next point, a mishit turns into an accidental but perfectly placed drop shot. Djokovic gets to it, but Zverev has the whole court to hit his next shot, and Djokovic does a near-split in a futile effort to get across the court.
But Djokovic wraps thing up with a solid point and then a drop shot, net approach and easy volley for the hold.
Second set: *Djokovic 4-6 3-1 Zverev (*denotes next server)
Fun fact: Both breaks in this match have come on double faults.
No such trouble here, as Zverev overcomes one semi-forced error (which isnâ€™t a stat but should be) and holds with little trouble.
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 3-0 Zverev* (*denotes next server)
Zverev looks rattled on the first two points. Djokovic hits a drop shot yet again to bring Zverev to the net, and Zverev can only loft the ball and tee it up for a Djokovic smash.
Next rally — another drop shot, and Zverev catches up but puts it long. Djokovic holds at love, and the momentum has truly swung.
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