Novak Djokovic Is Ready For Another Fight

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The New York Times 10 September, 2021 - 09:00am 5 views

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As he closes in on a rare calendar-year Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic has mastered readying himself for tennis as hand-to-hand combat.

This, invariably, is Novak Djokovic, late in the evening, often well past midnight, when another day of work is finally done, when the arena has emptied and he sits in front of a microphone, his piercing eyes an odd combination of glazed and steely, and he tries to put into words what he has just endured.

To so many tennis players, their game exists as a kind of art. Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, the world’s third-ranked player, talks about tennis as a form of self-expression.

To Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who is No. 2 in the world rankings, tennis is a chess match, requiring the ability to think several shots ahead, to control the center of the court as though it is the center of a chess board, to make the quick moves needed to shift from defense to offense in an instant.

Then there is Djokovic, the player who stands two matches away from pulling off the most hallowed achievement in the game — winning all four Grand Slams in the same calendar year. For Djokovic, tennis is not art, or ballet, and it is certainly not a game. It is combat, a street brawl in which there is only one survivor.

“I can go the distance,” he said as the clock ticked close to 1:30 a.m. Thursday, fittingly using a boxing expression after his 3 hour, 27 minute duel with Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals. “Actually I like to go the distance.”

For nearly two weeks, Djokovic, the 34-year-old Serbian, has faced opponents who are younger, some by more than a decade. Several of them are bigger than he is, and seemingly far stronger. “I don’t want to wrestle with him,” Djokovic joked after beating Berrettini, his 25-year-old opponent, who is 6-foot-5 and more than 200 pounds.

And yet, Djokovic has left all of them not just defeated but also beaten.

Holger Rune, a cocky 18-year-old from Denmark who took a set off him in their first round match, could barely walk by the middle of the third set, crippled by cramping that set in after 90 minutes of chasing Djokovic’s blistering forehands to every corner of the court.

Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old American, gave Djokovic all he could handle for a set-and-a-half in the fourth round. But within a few more games, a medical trainer was hovering at his chair, treating him for a hip injury he aggravated during the unmatched physical test that playing Djokovic has become.

The signature moments that night came when Djokovic followed up his on-the-run passing shots by staring down his 6-foot-4 foe.

He said he wanted Brooksby “to feel” his presence on the court, to understand that he was facing someone with no intention of showing any mercy, no matter how hobbled he might be.

“I wanted to wear him down,” he said of Brooksby, “and it worked.”

Battlegrounds are familiar territory for Djokovic, a lover of wolves, the product of a region that was war-torn during his childhood. One of his coaches, Goran Ivanisevic, a Croatian, said that the Balkans bred people who are desperate to prove their resourcefulness to a world that, as he put it, expected nothing from you.

For Djokovic, in so many ways, this U.S. Open has become a microcosm of a career marked not just by on-court battles with opponents, but by career-long fights against so many other forces in the game: fights against history, to do what no player has done before by taking the lead for most Grand Slam titles; against a tennisphere that so loved its binary duel between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and preferred not to have Djokovic crashing their Rafa-Roger lovefest. And there is the never-ending fight against the tens of thousands of tennis fans who come to his matches and roar for him to lose, caring little who the opponent is. (If Novak loses, Roger and Rafa win, their logic goes.)

The jeering jarred Djokovic on his first night here, as the crowd roared “ROOOOOON!” over and over and showed little appreciation for the start of Djokovic’s quest to achieve something that was considered too difficult in this era, with the three greatest-ever players competing all at once. He was terse in his on-court interview after Rune was finished. He abandoned his trademark gesture of pushing his heart out to the crowd. He was blunt in a post-match news conference.

“Obviously you always wish to have the crowd behind you, but it’s not always possible,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”

Two matches later, with the jeering reaching full throttle as Kei Nishikori tried to survive, Djokovic pulled off a series of impossible shots at the key moment of the third set. He put his finger to his ear after the first two, demanding the noise that finally surged behind him. After a third, he squinted and glared at the crowd as he sauntered to his chair for the changeover, sending a very clear message — I am going to beat him and I am going to beat you.

Always, though, the primary fight is on the court, and it is a battle he begins with a head start, because the players on the receiving end of his blows have convinced themselves that nothing less than the best match of their lives will suffice.

“You have to be perfect,” Alexander Zverev, his semifinal opponent, who beat him at the Olympic Games in Tokyo six weeks ago, said earlier this week. “Most of the time you can’t be perfect. That’s why most of the time people lose to him. You have to win the match yourself. You have to be the one that is dominating the points.”

Berrettini looked as though he might have a shot Wednesday night in the quarterfinal.

Everything about Berrettini is big — his shoulders, his chest, the way he stalks the court and unleashes his booming serve and massive forehand, plus a Usain Bolt-like stride that sends him from the baseline to the net seemingly in three quick steps. For 80 minutes he took every blow Djokovic tried to land and gave it back, prevailing 7-5 in the first set, sending the teeming stadium packed with 23,000 fans into a frenzy.

Djokovic, though, was just getting started, raising his level to win the next three games and making sure Berrettini knew how much more he was going to need to come up with to prevail.

Within 40 minutes it was all even. Just before the three-hour mark, a few minutes past midnight, Djokovic was cruising toward the finish. Berrettini was still blasting 130 mile per hour serves, but Djokovic was somehow blasting them right back at his feet and onto the lines. When he ripped a crosscourt forehand that Berrettini could only watch whiz by, the big Italian slumped his shoulders and shook his head.

Once more, Berrettini said, Djokovic had made him sweat in a way other players never do, had taken his early shot square in the mouth when he lost the first set, just as he had to Berrettini in the Wimbledon final, and somehow come back to the court stronger.

“He takes energy from that set that he lost,” Berrettini said.

Berrettini had plenty of company in defeat. By midnight, when Djokovic had made it clear that his night would end just as all the others had, perhaps half the crowd had gone home. The only ones left chanted “Nole, Nole, Nole, Nole…,” inserting Djokovic’s nickname into the Ole chant.

Once more he had fought them all, and won.

“Five sets, five hours, whatever it takes,” he said in the bowels of the stadium, just before he left. “That’s why I’m here.”

Read full article at The New York Times

2021 U.S. Open men's semifinal odds, predictions: Proven tennis expert reveals Djokovic vs. Zverev picks, bets

CBS Sports 10 September, 2021 - 05:10pm

Novak Djokovic remains on course to make history as he prepares to face Alexander Zverev on Friday in the men's singles semifinals at the 2021 U.S. Open. Djokovic is seeking his record 21st grand slam title and would become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win a calendar-year Slam. But first up is Zverev, who beat Djokovic in the semifinals on his way to the gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Djokovic is the top-ranked player in the world and is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer with 20 grand slams, while Zverev is ranked fourth and has not won a Grand Slam. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

The latest Djokovic vs. Zverev odds from Caesars Sportsbook list Djokovic as the -275 favorite (risk $275 to win $100), while Zverev is the +210 underdog. The over-under for total games is set at 38.5. Before locking in any Zverev vs, Djokovic 2021 U.S. Open men's semifinals picks, you need to see what expert Sean Calvert has to say.

Calvert is the renowned handicapper who called Stan Wawrinka winning the 2014 Australian Open at 60-1, the last Australian title won by someone other than Djokovic or Roger Federer. In 2019, Calvert took down a huge score on Dominic Thiem winning Indian Wells at 80-1. 

And earlier in 2021, he nailed both of his bets for the Wimbledon men's singles final: Djokovic to beat Matteo Berrettini three sets to one (+275) and Djokovic to win and both players to win a set (+130). Anyone following his picks is way up.

Now, Calvert has been digging deep into the latest 2021 U.S. Open odds and released his coveted best bet for Zverev vs. Djokovic. He's only sharing his expert U.S. Open picks and analysis at SportsLine.

Djokovic will be eager to atone for his misstep in Tokyo, when he won the first set 6-1 and was up 3-2 before winning just one more game. The Serb is 6-3 in matchups with Zverev, but the German will come in with confidence from that last meeting and is on an upward trajectory. Djokovic comes off a draining three-hour battle with Matteo Berrettini in the quarterfinals, while the 25-year-old Zverev got past Lloyd Harris in three sets. The 34-year-old Djokovic also played in the final match Wednesday night, so he will have little recovery time.

Both players will be facing pressure, but Djokovic has dealt with a lot over his career and will be locked in on his chance at history. Zverev, meanwhile, has won 16-straight matches since Wimbledon and will be facing pressure to win his first Grand Slam. He was on the brink of the U.S. Open title last year, but Dominic Thiem staged an epic comeback from two sets down to win in a fifth-set tie-break. But Zverev didn't have to get through Djokovic, who was disqualified for an outburst in his fourth-round match, Nadal (coronavirus concerns) or Federer (injury).      

Calvert has broken down the latest U.S. Open men's odds and released his coveted best bet for this semifinal matchup and his full breakdown of the match. Calvert's expert U.S. Open picks are available only at SportsLine.

© 2004-2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

CBS Sports is a registered trademark of CBS Broadcasting Inc. Commissioner.com is a registered trademark of CBS Interactive Inc.

Images by Getty Images and US Presswire

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Novak Djokovic has history on his side in the semifinals

US Open Tennis Championships 10 September, 2021 - 05:10pm

Novak Djokovic remains on course to make history as he prepares to face Alexander Zverev on Friday in the men's singles semifinals at the 2021 U.S. Open. Djokovic is seeking his record 21st grand slam title and would become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win a calendar-year Slam. But first up is Zverev, who beat Djokovic in the semifinals on his way to the gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Djokovic is the top-ranked player in the world and is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer with 20 grand slams, while Zverev is ranked fourth and has not won a Grand Slam. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

The latest Djokovic vs. Zverev odds from Caesars Sportsbook list Djokovic as the -275 favorite (risk $275 to win $100), while Zverev is the +210 underdog. The over-under for total games is set at 38.5. Before locking in any Zverev vs, Djokovic 2021 U.S. Open men's semifinals picks, you need to see what expert Sean Calvert has to say.

Calvert is the renowned handicapper who called Stan Wawrinka winning the 2014 Australian Open at 60-1, the last Australian title won by someone other than Djokovic or Roger Federer. In 2019, Calvert took down a huge score on Dominic Thiem winning Indian Wells at 80-1. 

And earlier in 2021, he nailed both of his bets for the Wimbledon men's singles final: Djokovic to beat Matteo Berrettini three sets to one (+275) and Djokovic to win and both players to win a set (+130). Anyone following his picks is way up.

Now, Calvert has been digging deep into the latest 2021 U.S. Open odds and released his coveted best bet for Zverev vs. Djokovic. He's only sharing his expert U.S. Open picks and analysis at SportsLine.

Djokovic will be eager to atone for his misstep in Tokyo, when he won the first set 6-1 and was up 3-2 before winning just one more game. The Serb is 6-3 in matchups with Zverev, but the German will come in with confidence from that last meeting and is on an upward trajectory. Djokovic comes off a draining three-hour battle with Matteo Berrettini in the quarterfinals, while the 25-year-old Zverev got past Lloyd Harris in three sets. The 34-year-old Djokovic also played in the final match Wednesday night, so he will have little recovery time.

Both players will be facing pressure, but Djokovic has dealt with a lot over his career and will be locked in on his chance at history. Zverev, meanwhile, has won 16-straight matches since Wimbledon and will be facing pressure to win his first Grand Slam. He was on the brink of the U.S. Open title last year, but Dominic Thiem staged an epic comeback from two sets down to win in a fifth-set tie-break. But Zverev didn't have to get through Djokovic, who was disqualified for an outburst in his fourth-round match, Nadal (coronavirus concerns) or Federer (injury).      

Calvert has broken down the latest U.S. Open men's odds and released his coveted best bet for this semifinal matchup and his full breakdown of the match. Calvert's expert U.S. Open picks are available only at SportsLine.

© 2004-2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

CBS Sports is a registered trademark of CBS Broadcasting Inc. Commissioner.com is a registered trademark of CBS Interactive Inc.

Images by Getty Images and US Presswire

These cookies are essential for the proper functioning of our Services. Essential cookies cannot be switched off in our systems. You can set your device to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the Service will not work.

These Cookies allow us to collect information about how visitors use our properties. Some examples include counting visits and traffic sources, so we can measure and improve the performance of our services. If you do not allow these Cookies we will not know when users have visited our properties and will not be able to monitor performance.

These Cookies enable the services to provide enhanced functionality and personalization. They may be set by us or by third party providers whose services we have added to our services. If you do not allow these Cookies then some or all of these services may not function properly.

These Cookies may be set by us or through our services by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant advertising on this and on other properties. If you do not allow these Cookies, you will still see ads, but you will experience less relevant advertising.

These Cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the services to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites, building up a profile of your interests to show you relevant content and advertisements on the relevant social networks. If you do not allow these Cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

'I told Novak Djokovic that I wished...', says ATP ace

Tennis World USA 10 September, 2021 - 11:10am

Novak Djokovic is two steps away from becoming (alone) the player with the most Grand Slam titles in history after defeating Italian Matteo Berrettini in the US Open quarterfinals (5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6- 3). In addition, the Serbian can complete the Grand Slam cycle in the same year, something that no one has achieved since the Australian Rod Laver did it in 1969, and reach 21 titles in major tournaments.

At the end of the game, Nole wanted to take pressure off by refusing to go into details about those records. "Don't ask me anything about the story. I know it's there," he said. Nobody doubted him after seeing how he played.

He hit winners from every angle on the court and fought every ball to show that he is willing to "do whatever it takes" to be a part of history. After 17 unforced errors in the first set, Djokovic made a total of 11 for the remainder of the match.

Upon concluding he acknowledged that he had played his best three sets in the tournament. "He has this ability and that's probably why he's the best of all time: improving his game, his level, all the time," admitted Berrettini, who also lost to Djokovic after winning the first set in the Wimbledon final.

"No matter how well he plays, he plays better." Djokovic proved it with his triumphs this season in Australia, on hard courts, on the clay at Roland Garros, on the grass at Wimblendon and now on the hard courts of the Open.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated sixth seed Matteo Berrettini in four sets in the quarterfinals of the 2021 US Open on Wednesday. "Really tough match, as always against Novak," Berrettini said.

"I was feeling good, playing good. Just he has this ability - and probably that's why he's the best ever - just to step up his game, his level all the time. Doesn't matter how well I play, he just plays better.

He starts to return better, to serve better. Just couldn't step up like he did. He deserved to win." The Italian also wished Djokovic luck in his bid to win the Calendar Slam. But he was quick to indicate that he would not be throwing his weight behind a single player in the GOAT debate.

"I told him that I wished him good luck for what he is doing. At the end of the careers we can compare," he said. "But I enjoy them. I enjoy what they're doing. I don't like to pick one of the three."

'I told Novak Djokovic that I wished...', says ATP ace

Tennis Now 10 September, 2021 - 11:10am

Novak Djokovic is two steps away from becoming (alone) the player with the most Grand Slam titles in history after defeating Italian Matteo Berrettini in the US Open quarterfinals (5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6- 3). In addition, the Serbian can complete the Grand Slam cycle in the same year, something that no one has achieved since the Australian Rod Laver did it in 1969, and reach 21 titles in major tournaments.

At the end of the game, Nole wanted to take pressure off by refusing to go into details about those records. "Don't ask me anything about the story. I know it's there," he said. Nobody doubted him after seeing how he played.

He hit winners from every angle on the court and fought every ball to show that he is willing to "do whatever it takes" to be a part of history. After 17 unforced errors in the first set, Djokovic made a total of 11 for the remainder of the match.

Upon concluding he acknowledged that he had played his best three sets in the tournament. "He has this ability and that's probably why he's the best of all time: improving his game, his level, all the time," admitted Berrettini, who also lost to Djokovic after winning the first set in the Wimbledon final.

"No matter how well he plays, he plays better." Djokovic proved it with his triumphs this season in Australia, on hard courts, on the clay at Roland Garros, on the grass at Wimblendon and now on the hard courts of the Open.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated sixth seed Matteo Berrettini in four sets in the quarterfinals of the 2021 US Open on Wednesday. "Really tough match, as always against Novak," Berrettini said.

"I was feeling good, playing good. Just he has this ability - and probably that's why he's the best ever - just to step up his game, his level all the time. Doesn't matter how well I play, he just plays better.

He starts to return better, to serve better. Just couldn't step up like he did. He deserved to win." The Italian also wished Djokovic luck in his bid to win the Calendar Slam. But he was quick to indicate that he would not be throwing his weight behind a single player in the GOAT debate.

"I told him that I wished him good luck for what he is doing. At the end of the careers we can compare," he said. "But I enjoy them. I enjoy what they're doing. I don't like to pick one of the three."

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