Well, that was how I thought the Djokovic vs Zverev match might go. The biggest question in my preview was how much resilience the German would use to stick around and make Novak dig, perhaps nervously, for that next step in his quest for all-time tennis supremacy.
I liked a fairly one-sided affair for Djokovic, but you never quite know (the outcome of that 4th doomed that prediction). He almost served up that requested entree, but we ended-up with a couple of extra courses for this SF spread. In yesterday’s post I clarified the presence of what has easily become a trademark of Zverev in B05: he can stick around and play with anyone. He’s a couple of critical points away from one or both of these big matches going his way: last year’s U.S. Open Final against Thiem and/or yesterday’s SF.
To be honest, I thought Novak was in trouble in this match and even the idea of going to a fifth felt like a bit of a loss. He never looked that great throughout the match, compared to how we know he can play (as in the QF a couple of days earlier). The second and third sets in which Novak took control of the match had some to do with Zverev’s quality dropping from that first set expression that all in attendance looked at in awe: he was virtually unplayable.
Things took a turn in the second set, of course, right on cue, some of which is the Djoker pattern of late and some, as we saw and just said, was Sascha’s drop in form.
I will acknowledge that though Novak’s nervy tennis persisted throughout most of the match, he played some huge points in his typical clutch configuration. And, granted, he began that anxious fifth set in a champion’s fashion, sending his opponent and the world of tennis a resounding reminder of who dons the blue Lacoste, of who is making the final ascent of tennis Everest.
He is through to the final and the five-setter doesn’t look to have done too much damage to Novak’s fitness and durability. Especially given what’s at stake in tomorrow’s final, the magnificent Serb should have plenty in the tank for that match.
What bugged me most about this second SF really was Novak’s decision to play so much BH to BH with the German, which is not the approach given this is Zverev’s most consistent weapon. What seemed pretty clear is Novak didn’t quite have that BHDTL working, the shot that makes him so dominant in the rally. Even his FHDTL was off.
Either way, between Zverev playing well in stretches beyond the first set and Novak’s less than ascendant form, we got ourselves quite the match. You can see that Zverev has just about all of the tools. The serve looked good and he was able to avoid too many of those costly DFs.
But let’s be honest. With Zverev and his serve carrying so much significance in his success (he has the make-up of a serve bot), he should have ~20 aces, if not more in a five set match. I am not discounting Novak’s ROS. Zverev needs more free points on that part of his game.
Overall, we see Novak’s clutch in the end separating these two players. Astonishing stuff.
Two “moments” in this match that standout: obviously, the tenth game of the third. Novak leading 5-4, returning serve and he gets three break points to close-out this pivotal set. We then get the two great rallies, one of which with 53 shots, both won my Sascha to save two set points. On the next point, Novak comes-up with the goods and finishes with a driving FH followed by a little overhead smash to clinch the two sets to one advantage.
The other point is where he breaks early in the fifth set to go 2-0 and really never look back. On that BP his BH slice drop shot from the baseline is actually from the heavens, so so clutch. Zverev has to scramble to the net to get it back, whereupon Novak curls a nice FH pass to seize control during a very tense part of the match, at the start of this winner-take-all fifth set decider. Epic.
The first SF was a joke. Of course, I am not a big fan of Medvedev’s tennis. To see FAA have a shot at serving-out the second set, only to choke that and then proceed to lose his ass, or whatever you want to call it, was both very disappointing and par for the course with too many of these nextgens.
Too easy to predict the result we got, that a #2 Medvedev would beat a very young and inexperienced nextgen. FAA has some game; I suggested (having seen parts of his victory over RBA and his match with Tiafoe, both of which evidenced more consistent serving and solid offensive ground strokes and court coverage) that he might rise and give the flawed Russian some resistance.
His serve was awful. Resembled a scared Zverev circa 2018. Double-faults, getting broken with ease. He has a lot of work to do.
But that part of the draw was crap, too. We’ll call that part of the draw the Alcaraz sewer. Yay, a new up-and-comer, who beats a top-seed, but then injures himself and the draw is shit. Sure, that’s on Tsitsipas, who was anything but tournament ready, mentally. But we went over bathroom-gate already.
I ended-up defending Tsitsipas on Twitter, basically saying he’s young and making some pretty typical mistakes; I have a 17 year-old. They’re baffling at times. Give the Greek a break.
Which is exactly what Novak did last night during his on-court interview. Nice to see him, in effect, tell a bunch of his own fans to stick their collective vitriol up their collective arse. Get a clue tennis fans (fanboys and girls).
So, we have Novak vs Daniil in the 2021 U.S. Open Final.
You have to take Novak for three obvious reasons.
- He’s on the verge of the CYGS and #21, both of which (especially the former) will impact the game forever.
- He spanked Daniil at the ’21 Aussie, in straights: 5 2 and 2.
- Medvedev is, imho, a dull Zverev (get it 😉
#3 is the only one that needs any explanation. Djokovic just beat a very dangerous player in the SF, probably the player in this draw with the best chance to beat Novak. Medvedev certainly presents a difficult proposition, but he doesn’t have the serve nor the attacking tennis that we saw last night that troubled Novak.
And that court position for the Russian is just bad. If Novak has his drop shot working at all, he’ll have Daniil off to the races. We saw some rallies last night between Novak and Sascha, one with 53 shots. This is out of the book of Daniil Medvedev. So, what will the Russian do that the German didn’t do to trouble Novak enough to upset the world #1?
I just don’t see the quality that can overcome Novak in five, which the Serb will be happy play, five sets, in order to accomplish this goal of winning the 2021 U.S. Open.
Oh yeah, the Russian is 2-7 in matches that have gone five sets.
Could Novak have an off day, not have that serve that he’s used to bail himself out of trouble all tournament, especially last night? Maybe.
But I think Novak probably plays a better match. He looked tight and a little off all night but for some of those big points that turned the match in his favor.
That’s what Medvedev has to deal with. I don’t see him up to the challenge, ultimately, despite his consistency and the weak draw he’s faced that’s empowered him with an abundance of energy and false confidence.
Something extraordinary would have to occur tomorrow for Novak not to come-away with the win and his 4th U.S. Open. title.
I guess I left-out of my little list a decent candidate for #4: Novak said last night that he will play tomorrow’s final as if it is his last match (ever). Nice little nod to where Djokovic will be willing to go to get this win.
Talk to you soon.