NEW YORK – Novak Djokovic is 26-0 in Grand Slam matches in 2021, moving him two victories from being the first man to win all four major tennis championships in one season since Rod Laver in 1969.
Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia who is ranked No. 1, won seven matches at the Australian Open, seven at the French Open and seven at Wimbledon to collect those trophies. Now he has added five wins at the U.S. Open as he heads into his semifinal against Alexander Zverev on Friday.
A title at Flushing Meadows also would give Djokovic 21 career majors, breaking a tie for the men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Here is a match-by-match look at Djokovic’s path through each tournament as he approaches a calendar-year Grand Slam, with the round, opponent’s ranking and name, score and synopsis:
Australian Open, Melbourne Park, Hard Courts, Melbourne, Feb. 8-21:
First Round: No. 61 Jeremy Chardy, France, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. Djokovic began his journey by winning 43 of 52 service points and dominating Chardy yet again. Djokovic is 14-0 head-to-head, winning all 33 sets they've played.
Second Round: No. 64 Frances Tiafoe, United States, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2), 6-3. Djokovic delivered a high-for-him 26 aces and agreed with Tiafoe’s complaint about being cited for a time violation while serving at 3-all, 30-all in the fourth set. Tiafoe did not win another game after that call.
Third Round: No. 31 Taylor Fritz, United States, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2. Noteworthy for two reasons: Play was paused in the fourth set while spectators were ushered out because of a local COVID-19 lockdown, and Djokovic said afterward he had torn an abdominal muscle when his left foot slid as he changed directions in the third set. “I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days,” he said.
Fourth Round: No. 14 Milos Raonic, Canada, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Declaring, “If it’s any other tournament than a Grand Slam, then I’d withdraw from that event, that’s for sure.” Djokovic played with the help of athletic tape and, he said, “pills, painkillers and stuff.” This was Djokovic's 300th career Slam win; Federer is the only other man with that many. Djokovic won 19 of 20 service games and improved to 12-0 against 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Raonic.
Quarterfinal: No. 7 Alexander Zverev, Germany, 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (6). Djokovic dropped the opening set and trailed 3-0 in both the third and fourth. After netting one backhand return, he hit his racket against the court three times and sent a piece of the frame flying. “I have my own demons that I have to fight with,” he said afterward.
Semifinal: No. 114 Aslan Karatsev, Russia, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic converted 6 of 7 break points and improved to 9-0 in Australian Open semifinals. Karatsev was a qualifier who became the first man in the Open era to reach a semifinal in his Grand Slam debut.
Final: No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, Russia, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic picked up 11 of 13 games in one stretch and ended Medvedev’s 20-match winning streak to collect a ninth Australian Open championship and 18th Grand Slam trophy. Calling the tournament “a roller-coaster ride,” Djokovic said it was “emotionally, the most challenging Grand Slam that I ever had, with everything that was happening — injury, off-the-court stuff, quarantines.” Medvedev, 0-2 in major finals, told Djokovic of his latest triumph: “Probably, it’s not your last one.”
French Open, Roland Garros, Red Clay Courts, Paris, May 30-June 13:
First round: No. 66 Tennys Sandgren, United States, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic saved all six break points he faced and compiled 33 winners while upping his record in first-round French Open matches to 17-0.
Second Round: No. 92 Pablo Cuevas, Uruguay, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Djokovic saved 8 of 9 break points. “So far,” he said, “the two matches that I have played have been played on a high quality.”
Third Round: No. 93 Ricardas Berankis, Lithuania, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1. Another matter-of-fact, zero-drama victory for Djokovic, who never faced a break point.
Fourth Round: No. 76 Lorenzo Musetti, Italy, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0, Retired. The drama begins. Djokovic dropped the first two sets against a 19-year-old participating in his first Grand Slam tournament, before coming back to advance for the fifth time in his career from that sizable deficit. Djokovic lost 10 points in the third set and four in the fourth before Musetti stopped in the fifth because of lower back pain and cramps.
Quarterfinal: No. 9 Matteo Berrettini, Italy, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5. Djokovic was two points from a straight-set victory before so much went awry: consecutive unforced errors that gave away the tiebreaker; a 21 1/2-minute delay while spectators left because of a COVID-19 curfew; a face-down tumble that drew blood from his left palm. "I just felt under tension the entire time,” Djokovic said.
Semifinal: No. 3 Rafael Nadal, Spain, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Djokovic was down a break at 2-0 in the fourth set before dominating the rest of the way to hand 13-time French Open champion Nadal just his third loss in 108 matches in the tournament. (Djokovic was responsible for one of the others, too, in 2015.) Djokovic made two key adjustments after dropping the first five games: He moved further back than usual to return and he focused on serving toward Nadal’s backhand. Djokovic improved his record against Nadal to 30-28 and called this “one of these nights and matches that you will remember forever.”
Final: No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greece, 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Djokovic's second French Open trophy and 19th Grand Slam title came via another comeback from two sets down and made him 35-10 in five setters. This also made Djokovic only the third man to win each major at least twice. He didn't face a break point in the last three sets against Tsitsipas, who was appearing in his first major final.
Wimbledon, All England Club, Grass Courts, London, June 28-July 11:
First Round: No. 253 Jack Draper, Britain, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic took two tumbles onto his backside in the first set, losing his footing on the slick grass behind the Centre Court baseline. Then he went from 15 unforced errors in the first set to nine the rest of the way.
Second Round: No. 102 Kevin Anderson, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Djokovic never faced a break point and made six unforced errors in what he described as an “almost flawless performance” against the man he beat in the 2018 final at the All England Club.
Third Round: No. 114 Denis Kudla, United States, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7). Djokovic's unforced error count rose to 28 and he acknowledged, "I was a bit off."
Fourth Round: No. 20 Cristian Garin, Chile, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic reached his 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal without much trouble.
Quarterfinal: No. 48 Marton Fucsovics, Hungary, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. It took 18 minutes for Djokovic to go up 5-0 against a man making his major quarterfinal debut.
Semifinal: No. 12 Denis Shapovalov, Canada, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5. Each set appeared to be there for the 22-year-old left-hander Shapovalov's taking — until it wasn't. Djokovic saved all eight break points he faced over the last two sets. “I felt like I was outplaying Novak in parts of the match,” Shapovalov said after walking off in tears. "If you’re outplaying Novak, you can beat anyone.”
Final: No. 9 Matteo Berrettini, Italy, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. Djokovic earned his sixth Wimbledon title and tied Federer and Nadal at 20 Grand Slam trophies. “I consider myself best, and I believe that I am the best, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking confidently about winning Slams and making history,” Djokovic said. “But whether I’m the greatest of all time or not, I leave that debate to other people.” Berrettini summed up his first Slam final this way: “He made me play badly.”
U.S. Open, Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Hard Courts, New York, Aug. 30-Sept. 12
First Round: No. 145 Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune, Denmark, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-1. Djokovic wore down his cramping foe, an 18-year-old qualifier, as the crowd repeatedly yelled, “Ruuuune!” (which both players said they thought was booing).
Second Round: No. 121 Tallon Griekspoor, Netherlands, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Facing a man who got into the field when Federer withdrew because he needs another knee operation, Djokovic's only real concern was a spectator who made noise during points. Griekspoor's take on facing Djokovic: "He’s everywhere.”
Third Round: No. 56 Kei Nishikori, Japan, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Djokovic beat 2014 U.S. Open finalist Nishikori for the 17th consecutive time. "I would not be honest, fully, if I told you I don’t think or I don’t believe or I don’t visualize that I can win every single Grand Slam that I play in,” Djokovic said.
Fourth Round: No. 99 Jenson Brooksby, United States, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic put aside 1 1/2 sets in which Brooksby gave him fits and eventually wore down the 20-year-old Californian to make this the first time in U.S. Open history that zero American men or women reached the singles quarterfinals.
Quarterfinal: No. 8 Matteo Berrettini, Italy, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. For the third match in a row, and ninth at majors this season, Djokovic dropped the first set and came back to win. He dialed in after making 17 unforced errors in the first set, with a total of 11 the rest of the way. “The best three sets I’ve played in the tournament, for sure,” Djokovic said.
Semifinal: No. 4 Alexander Zverev, Germany, scheduled for Friday.
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