Alexander Zverev has extended Novak Djokovic to a deciding fifth set in their US Open semi-final on Friday evening inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

World No. 1 Djokovic took what appeared to be a commanding two-sets-to-one lead, but Zverev rallied to level at 6-4, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4. The winner will play second seed Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final.

Six weeks ago, Zverev spoiled Djokovic’s dreams of a Golden Slam at the Tokyo Olympics. Now he is trying to halt the Serbian’s pursuit of the Grand Slam in New York.

The top seed has already won the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year, and a US Open win would make him the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the Grand Slam. A victory at Flushing Meadows would also give the Serbian his 21st major trophy, breaking a tie for the all-time record with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Zverev has proven Djokovic’s toughest challenger yet in New York. For the 10th time this year at a major, the Serbian lost the opening set. But this occasion feels more dangerous, as the German just beat him in Tokyo and entered the match on a 16-match winning streak.

This is the first five-setter of the tournament for both men. Djokovic is 35-10 in five-setters and Zverev is 16-9. This year, however, the World No. 1 is 3-0 and the recent Cincinnati champion is 1-2.

Djokovic leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 6-3, and this is just the third time one of their matches has gone to a deciding set. One year ago, Zverev reached his first major final at Flushing Meadows and came within two points of lifting the trophy against Dominic Thiem.

Neither player has been at his absolute best through four sets. Early on, Zverev’s booming serve gave Djokovic — one of the best returners in history — trouble. 

But after taking the first set, Zverev got off to a slow start in the second. Serving at 0-1 30/30, the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion missed a short forehand to give the World No. 1 his first break point, and then hit a double fault to relinquish his serve. 

From there, Zverev began to play more defensively and sit behind the baseline, while Djokovic used a more conservative strategy and baited his opponent with backhand slices. The 85-time tour-level titlist took advantage of a significant dip in the German’s level to level the match.

Zverev got into trouble on serve at 4-5 15/40 in the third set, but saved the first set point he faced by crushing an inside-out forehand winner to cap an incredible 53-shot rally, the longest point of the tournament. The 24-year-old bent over after the point to catch his breath, but it was not enough as Djokovic hit an overhead winner on the next point before windmilling his arms to get the crowd involved, the most emotion he had shown until that point.

It seemed Djokovic would run away with the momentum, but Zverev had none of it. The fourth seed increased his aggression in the fourth set and used his big serve to get through his service games and force a decider.

Source: Tennis – ATP World Tour