Now it’s Alexander Zverev’s time to derail Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam freight train and he knows he can do it. But he also knows he’s got to be perfect.
Zverev and Djokovic meet on Ashe Stadium on Friday in the semifinals of the U.S. Open with Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the other semi.
All eyes will be on Djokovic as he goes for the calendar year Grand Slam last achieved by a man in 1969 by Rod Laver, who also had done it in 1962. And Laver may well be on hand in Flushing Meadows for Djokovic’s run to glory after wins at the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon.
First, he must get past Zverev, who came within two points of winning the Open last year before falling to Dominic Thiem in the fanless final.
Zverev stopped Djokovic’s attempt at the Golden Slam in July, denying him a shot at the gold medal when he beat him in the semis at the Tokyo Olympics then went on to grab the gold for Germany.
Beating Djokovic on Ashe is another kettle of fish altogether.
"Against him you prepare that you have to play the best match that you can," Zverev said. "You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win.
Yeah, I mean, 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."
Zverev has done it, and he’s done it in an impressive way, coming from a set and a break down to win in Tokyo. His overall record against Djokovic is 3-6.
If Zverev isn’t the stopper, then Medvedev is the likely last hope in the final, pending victory over Aliassime, the 21-year-old Canadian playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal. Medvedev lost to Djokovic in the Australian final this year, going down in three sets, but has three career victories over him.