US Open: Zverev riding wave of Djokovic upset and Olympic gold in New York

By Sports Desk September 08, 2021

Alexander Zverev is riding a wave at the US Open after his confidence-boosting win over world number one Novak Djokovic en route to claiming gold at the Olympic Games.

Zverev survived a first-set scare to power past Lloyd Harris 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 6-4 in Wednesday's US Open quarter-final.

The German fourth seed will face either Djokovic, who is bidding to become just the third man to complete a calendar Grand Slam and first since 1969, or Matteo Berrettini for a spot in the men's final at Flushing Meadows.

Zverev – last year's US Open runner-up – said he has been fuelled by his semi-final win over Djokovic at the Tokyo Games.

"It's the biggest tournament in the world, Tokyo. It's the Olympics," Zverev said during his post-match news conference.

"Winning there against the world number one, especially that I was down a set and a break, being kind of out of the match, then coming back, it was different than the other matches. The emotions were different.

"Also securing a medal for Germany was very special to me. This year it seems like nobody can beat him in a big match, nobody can beat him at the grand slams.

"I feel like I was the first player to beat him in a very big match this year. That does give you something. To any person it would give you something.

"As I said before also, I think it was very important for me to back it up in the finals, back it up in Cincinnati. Hopefully I can continue this streak."

Zverev is in the midst of a career-best 16-match winning streak and has clinched 37 of 40 sets on the hard courts after winning Olympic gold and his fifth career ATP Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati.

The 24-year-old is bidding to become the second man in history to win Olympic gold medal and the US Open/US Championships title in the same season, after Andy Murray in 2012.

On preparing against Djokovic, Zverev added: "You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win.

"Most of the time you can't be perfect. That's why most of the time people lose to him. Against him, you have to win the match yourself. You have to be the one that is dominating the points. You have to do it with very little unforced errors.

"He is the best player in the world. He is very difficult to beat. But he's still also got to win tonight. He's playing Matteo Berrettini who is in very good form, finals of Wimbledon. I think he's looking forward to that match, as well. It's going to be an interesting match to watch those two."

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    Novak Djokovic beat Tim van Rijthoven on Sunday to take his place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and was very relieved to get the job done ahead of the 23:00BST curfew.

    World number one Djokovic saw off the Wimbledon debutant 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 on Centre Court to set up an intriguing last-eight clash with Jannik Sinner.

    The contest did not go all the defending champion's way, however, as Van Rijthoven's display in the second set suggested Djokovic would have to dig deep.

    But the Serb's response was emphatic as he went on drop just three games in the following two sets, blowing the 25-year-old Dutchman away impressively to reach a 13th Wimbledon quarter-final.

    It was also Djokovic's 25th successive win at Wimbledon, a sequence that has only ever been bettered three times in SW19.

    For a while there seemed to be a real threat of Van Rijthoven taking the match into a second day, with the curfew looming.

    Djokovic suggested he was not entirely aware of the deadline, and that only increased his relief after clinching victory with 22 minutes to spare.

    Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "I don't know if there was a curfew, 11pm? Is that still on? Okay, phew!

    "I am lucky, I am lucky. It's only 20 minutes, too, so I'm lucky. I have had some previous experience of playing a match over two days under the roof against [Rafael] Nadal some years ago, and it's never really pleasant if you can't finish the match the same day.

    "I am glad I did and now I am just looking forward to the next challenge."

    Specifically on Van Rijthoven, Djokovic added: "He was very tough, he's kind of a new face on the tour and actually won his first ATP match in the tournament he won a few weeks ago in his country, beating players in top five, top 10 in the world.

    "He was on a streak on this surface, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy with that serve and a lot of talent, great touch and a powerful forehand. He can do a lot of damage.

    "It took me a little bit of time to get used to his pace, and the conditions under the roof are a little bit different, a bit slippery, so it takes a bit of adjusting, but overall I closed out the match well."

  • Wimbledon: Djokovic survives 'very tough' battle with Van Rijthoven to set up Sinner showdown Wimbledon: Djokovic survives 'very tough' battle with Van Rijthoven to set up Sinner showdown

    Novak Djokovic stared danger in the face and scared it off in inimitable fashion as Wimbledon's defending champion scored a late-night win over Tim van Rijthoven.

    Chasing a fourth successive title at the All England Club, Djokovic shrugged off the jolt of dropping the second set to scorch through the next two and secure a 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory in the fourth-round contest.

    Having been part of an early-afternoon parade of champions, marking Centre Court's centenary, six-time Wimbledon king Djokovic returned to the arena and served a reminder of why he has become so difficult to beat. This was his 25th consecutive match win in the men's singles at Wimbledon, and only Bjorn Borg (41), Roger Federer (40) and Pete Sampras (31) have had more in a row.

    Van Rijthoven's fairy-tale rise to prominence during this grass-court season has included wins over world number one Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships. The victory over Medvedev came in the final, with Van Rijthoven's ranking jumping from 205th to 106th on the ATP list, Wimbledon swiftly proffering a wildcard.

    Seeds Reilly Opelka and Nikoloz Basilashvili both fell to Van Rijthoven in Wimbledon's early rounds, and when he sealed the second set against Djokovic with back-to-back aces, it fuelled the Dutchman's belief that he might add an even greater scalp.

    A dazzling backhand from Djokovic set up break point in game two of the third set, and with a curfew of 23:00BST, the Serbian knew he needed to hurry up. Van Rijthoven speared a forehand long and the break was established, at 21:43BST.

    Djokovic surged 5-0 ahead; and although Van Rijthoven spared himself a 'bagel', the damage had been done. Soon the top seed was a set away from the finish line, all across his opponent's game, and Van Rijthoven knew the jig was up. That finish line was crossed at 22:38BST. Djokovic said it had been a "very tough" battle, but he survives and faces Jannik Sinner next.

    Data slam: Poles apart, and eventually it showed

    Where Van Rijthoven has one ATP-level title, Djokovic has 87. The 35-year-old Serbian remains the firm favourite to be holding the trophy on Centre Court next Sunday, that second set notwithstanding. Djokovic's resilient effort against a man in form means there has still never been an incidence of the men's singles top seed losing to a wildcard at a grand slam in the Open Era (since 1968).

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    Djokovic – 28/19
    Van Rijthoven – 41/53

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Djokovic – 7/2
    Van Rijthoven – 20/5

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Djokovic – 6/17
    Van Rijthoven – 1/4

  • Wimbledon: Jabeur's appeal to Africa as terrific Tunisian targets title Wimbledon: Jabeur's appeal to Africa as terrific Tunisian targets title

    Ons Jabeur urged the youth of Africa to believe they can make it all the way to Wimbledon as the Tunisian booked her place in the quarter-finals for a second successive year.

    The 27-year-old is the new title favourite, following Iga Swiatek's third-round exit, as she chases a maiden grand slam title.

    Jabeur was made to work hard for a 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 victory over Belgian Elise Mertens on Sunday, but she has still yet to drop a set.

    Next for Jabeur is Czech player Marie Bouzkova, the world number 66, and she is relishing her role as a trailblazer for African and Arab women.

    "I enjoy sometimes failing and succeeding after. It's amazing," Jabeur said. "I wish I could really give the message to the young generation, not just from my country but from the African continent.

    "I want to see more players here, I want them to believe more in themselves and believe that they can be here. I don't come from a rich family, so you have to really stop finding excuses and go for it, just be yourself and enjoy playing tennis."

    World number two Jabeur is the only Tunisian ranked inside the WTA top 700. This is her fifth Wimbledon, and last year's run to the last eight was her best performance at that point, with Aryna Sabalenka preventing her going any further.

    Now she has the title in her sights.

    "It's amazing to be here and hopefully I can continue," she said in an on-court interview. "I love playing on grass. I love the connection between nature and me, so hopefully it will continue this way for me and maybe through to the finals."

    Mertens beat former champion Angelique Kerber in round three, and against Jabeur on Court One she battled from an early 3-1 deficit to force the opening-set tie-break.

    It was exhilarating at that point, and Jabeur was relieved to win the breaker, fearing she might not have the wherewithal to come back from dropping the set.

    Mertens beat Jabeur in round three at the US Open last year, so the threat she posed was clear.

    "She's a great opponent really. It's never easy to play her, and I had to dig deep, very deep, in the tie-break," Jabeur said. "I couldn't imagine myself playing three sets against her."

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