Zverev And Medvedev Standing In Djokovic's Path - UBITENNIS
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Zverev And Medvedev Standing In Djokovic’s Path

The world number one looked great against Berrettini, but the road to a Calendar Year Grand Slam is still long.

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It probably looks like the only obstacles standing in Novak Djokovic’s path to the first calendar Grand Slam in more than half a century are Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev.

 

The Big Three certainly are impressive, Zverev and Medvedev chomping at the bits in anticipation of their own initial Grand Slam titles. If those two miss out this time on celebrations of their own at the U.S. Open, they are bound to collect their own big trophies  soon.

SERBIAN WONDER’S AMAZING FEATS

Djokovic overcame and outlasted the huge serves and forehands of  Matteo Berrettini in the quarterfinals until the Italian ran out of gas. Novak was still going strong in winning the last three sets rather convincingly after being overpowered in the first set.

The Serbian Wonder repeatedly came up with amazing shots those last three sets, enough so that some observers are ready to hand Djokovic a record 21st Grand Slam title and a calendar Grand Slam.

But Berrettini has his weaknesses, mainly backhands down the line that he consistently nets as well as the conditioning that would enable him to connect on service bombs and mighty  forehands for four or five sets. That’s why Djokovic appeared to be invincible in the quarterfinals.

ZVEREV NOW A DIFFERENT PLAYER

Is Djokovic invincible?

Maybe not, if Zverev continues to boom serves and groundstrokes off both wings the way he has so far in this U.S. Open. The tall German is a different player now than a year ago, mostly because of the confidence he gained by defeating Djokovic and then winning the Olympic Gold.

Now that Zverev walks around knowing that he can beat Djokovic as he did in the Tokyo Olympics to end Novak’s dream of a Golden Grand Slam, their semifinal meeting on Friday might not be a done deal for Novak.

Zverev can hit, serve and run with Djokovic for at least three sets. We know that from their Tokyo meeting, although Arthur Ashe Stadium probably won’t match Tokyo’s heat.

Remember, Zverev handled Djokovic and the heat while winning Tokyo Gold.

WILL NOVAK BE ABLE TO HANDLE THE PRESSURE?

The pressure could kick in on Novak against Zverev, or in the final if Novak happens to be there. He could feel the way Nadal did in the Australian Open and French Open when pressure was as much the equalizer as the opposition.

Realizing the strength of the opposition and the closeness he is to a Calendar Grand Slam and in the process overtaking the 20 Grand Slam titles by Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal with a 21st Grand Slam championship, Djokovic isn’t likely to be immune to the presence of pressure.

R&R FANS WON’T FORGET THEIR HEROES

All tennis observers and fans aren’t as pro-Novak as the ESPN analysts appear to be on air.

Of course, there are fans everywhere who  wouldn’t be upset seeing Zverev prevail again to end  another of Djokovic’s dreams as well as at least temporarily stalling his bid to pass Federer and Nadal.

 Some fans still prefer the touch of class that Federer and Nadal have demonstrated for much of the last two decades.

R&R fans have never seen their heroes walking around repeatedly trying to encourage or lift up the fans or with their ears cupped to hear more cheers after pulling off another remarkable feat on the court. Tennis isn’t wrestling yet, but it’s getting closer with some of the demonstrations by young stars, not to mention Djokovic.

MEDVEDEV COULD BE WAITING

If Djokovic happens to persevere against Zverev, the chase won’t be complete.

Medvedev likely will be waiting for Novak.

Medvedev is too good to not win a Grand Slam title in the next year or two. It could be this year, whether it’s against Djokovic or Zverev.

These three players, Djokovic, Zverev and Medvedev, appear to be the world’s Big Three right now.

Yes, better than even Stefanos Tsitsipas. The talented Greek isn’t likely to take his loss to Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the round of 16 lightly. Tsitsipas probably is out working on his game right now. He is that serious about it, and his goal of winning a Grand Slam title.

WHAT ABOUT THE SURPRISINGLY GOOD FELIX?

Wait a minute! What about the talented young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime?

Auger-Aliassime is one of the most aggressive players in the game, and he appears to be a far more complete player than he was a year ago. Not only is he an excellent server with power, he seems to be everywhere on the court, always ready to hit a winner off either side.

Just think what a pair of wins in the last two rounds of the U.S. Open would do for Auger-Aliassime. All of a sudden, he would be the best player in the game.

Smooth and smart at 21 years old, Auger-Aliassime has developed into a player to watch along with the other three or four other top candidates to replace Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.


James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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Laver Back In the Conversation For Greatest Player?

Daniil Medvedev thwarted Djokovic’s Calendar Year Grand Slam ambitions and is ready to take over as the best in the game.

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Who’s the greatest player ever?

 

How about Rod Laver, the owner of two Calendar Grand Slams?

Or what about Rafa Nadal, the owner of 21 major singles titles (including Olympic Gold)?

Or what about 20-20-20-Laver?

HOW DOES 20-20-20-LAVER SOUND?

Since Novak Djokovic failed in his bid to win a Calendar Grand Slam on Sunday, I nominate the last of the three possibilities. 20-20-20-Laver sounds like a winner.

For Djokovic just to enter the conversation was a major achievement, and that was spurred by the Serbian’s bid for a Calendar Grand Slam.

Daniil Medvedev ended that conversation on Sunday, at least for now, with his straight-set 4-4-4 dismantling of Djokovic in the U.S. Open final.

DISAPPOINTING YEAR FOR NOVAK

As 2021 turned out, it was a really disappointing year for Djokovic, even though he won the year’s first three Grand Slam events. Most players would be out celebrating if they won three Grand Slams in one year.

The loss to Alexander Zverev in the Tokyo Olympics ended Novak’s Golden Grand Slam. And then Medvedev took care of the Calendar Grand Slam talk and the possibility of Djokovic breaking a 20-20-20 deadlock with Nadal and Roger Federer.

So, what’s next? I doubt that Novak is planning to skip the Australian Open in January. Even that one won’t be easy for Djokovic as a result of what has happened in late summer.

NO PICNIC DOWN UNDER FOR NOVAK

Djokovic has practically owned the Australian Open with nine titles in Melbourne, and eight of the last 11. But Medvedev and Zverev will be major obstacles for Djokovic in Melbourne, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Australian Open isn’t likely to be a picnic for Novak, even if Federer and Nadal skip the trip. If so, Federer and Nadal will be leaving the Australian Open in capable hands.

Things should start heating up by the quarterfinals Down Under.

By the way, Djokovic is 34 years old. That’s about the age Nadal started having trouble winning Grand Slams.

A DOMINANT VICTORY FOR THE RUSSIAN

Medvedev beat Djokovic at just about everything he tried on Sunday. Djokovic was never in the game on serving competition or powerful forehands.

Those areas belonged to the 25-year-old Russian.

And movement? On this day, Medvedev had a picnic. The 6-6 first-time Grand Slam winner was everywhere with his amazing quickness. Djokovic couldn’t put a dent in his baseline defense.

Medvedev even out-did Djokovic in the Serbian’s usually solid drop shot department, pinning  even more disappointment on Novak.

Novak even caused a ball girl to change directions during the match as he swung his racket near the surface in  frustration after losing a point. Later, he punished his racket by smashing it into the court and destroying it.

MEDVEDEV’S SERVE MADE THE DIFFERENCE

The key to the relatively easy win for Medvedev was his serve. He was a perfect 15-for-15 on first-serve points in the opening set.

Medvedev obviously had little trouble with his serve until he was ready to end the match. With Medvedev owning a match point at 5-2 in the third set, the crowd tried to help Djokovic. Only then when the crowd got into the act of trying to break Medvedev’s attention did he double-fault twice in a row before netting a forehand to give Djokovic the game.

But in the final game of the match, Medvedev was ready for the crowd attack, although he double-faulted another match point away before ending the match with a big serve out wide for a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory. Djokovic managed only to hit the bottom of the net with his backhand return.

And suddenly, the tall Russian looks like the best player in the game.


James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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Raducanu Proved She’s The Better Player

The British sensation shocked the tennis world – can she keep it up in the coming years?

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They played in the largest tennis stadium in the world.

 

They were teenagers. They achieved a dream early in their careers.

It just as easily could have been a junior championship a year earlier in their careers.

Only a few people would have been watching then. Such an event might not even have drawn newspaper coverage.

REAL LIFE NOW SETS IN

This meeting was much bigger and more important. The two participants would be $2.7 million richer between them before the day ended. They would become famous the world over, at least for now.

But this was Saturday, 9/11/21.

Real life now sets in. There probably are at least 100 other players in the world who are just as outstanding as Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez. Yet, most of them will never be involved in a Grand Slam singles final.

NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN

What Raducanu and Fernandez accomplished will never be forgotten, always listed in tennis annals.

England will always be proud of its new Grand Slam champion. At long last, Virginia Wade has company.

And Canada will never forget its feisty Grand Slam runner-up.

They stood the test while other more touted and talented players buckled at the knees. High-ranked players crumbled at the thought of losing to a mere teenager.

Next time, that advantage probably won’t exist.

BRITISH 18-YEAR-OLD WAS THE STRONGER PLAYER

Raducanu and Fernandez played the final like the teenagers they are.

Raducanu came close to making it a one-sided result when she held match point twice with a 5-2 lead in the second set. But Fernandez did not give up on her left-handed game that Raducanu had conquered before in the junior ranks.

After losing both points and the game to make the match closer, Raducanu fought off a pair of break points in the next game before making good on her third match point for a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

The British 18-year-old generally outplayed the 19-year-old Fernandez most of the 111-minute final. Raducanu had more firepower on her serve and ground strokes.

RADUCANU A PERFECT 10

Raducanu played like a tour veteran, even if it was only her fourth tour-level event. It was her 10th straight win without dropping a set, counting her three wins in qualifying just to get into the main draw. No women’s qualifier before even had advanced to a Grand Slam final.

She has the game to win consistently on the tour, but probably not strong enough to challenge the Top 10 players and Grand Slam titlists right away. She’s now no longer under the radar. Everyone wants to beat a Grand Slam champion.

This may have been just a one-shot opening that Raducanu took full advantage of to win a Grand Slam title.  Just in case the road ahead gets bumpy, she might want to be thrifty with the $1.8 million payday.


James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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Novak Djokovic Was Pushed To An Amazing Performance

Zverev fell just short of beating the world N.1, and now Medvedev is the last obstacle still standing on his path to a Calendar Year Grand Slam

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Novak Djokovic was simply amazing Friday night.

 

True, he made a few mistakes against Alexander Zverev, but not when they counted most.

Zverev also was superb, but his mistakes came when they counted really big.

For those reasons, Djokovic is getting ready to play for the unthinkable. No one had thought much about a Calendar Grand Slam until back in June when Djokovic shocked the tennis world with a victory over Rafa Nadal at the French Open.

By the time Wimbledon came around without Roger Federer and Nadal in the field, the odds were high that Djokovic actually could achieve a Calendar Grand Slam. And then he won Wimbledon and in the process turned the race for most Grand Slam titles into a 20-20-20 battle.

ZVEREV CAME CLOSE TO SPOILING THINGS

When Federer and Nadal pulled out of the U.S. Open, all of Djokovic’s goals except a Golden Grand Slam when he lost to Zverev at the Olympics were in play.

Nearly two weeks later, Djokovic is one victory away from breaking out of the 20-20-20 deadlock as well as completing a rare Calendar Grand Slam.

Zverev pressed Djokovic into playing his very best to escape with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory in the U.S. Open semifinals. Only a cold start to the fifth set chilled Zverev’s hopes of spoiling Novak’s dreams.

Even after losing the first five games of the fifth set, Zverev still came close to making things interesting by winning the next two games and going to 30-30 in the eighth game.

MEDVEDEV HAS THE GAME TO WIN

Zverev’s improving game, and his big strokes and serves probably were enough to make Novak hope he won’t have to face Zverev’s hard balls again in January at the Australian Open.

That leaves only Daniil Medvedev between Djokovic and immortality.

Medvedev will have to be at his best to beat Novak. The slender 6-6 Russian can’t afford even a brief meltdown if he is to take Djokovic to the wire.

Medvedev appeared to be in awe of Djokovic when the two met in  this year’s Australian Open final.  Djokovic won that one easily in straight sets.

DANIIL IS DUE TO MAKE HIS MARK; IT’S HIS TIME

Medvedev’s game is a piece of work. He is completely unpredictable.

His whip forehand is one of the best shots in tennis. He backs it up with incredible movement.

It all depends on whether Medvedev can stick with Novak until the end. If Medvedev is still there, Novak likely will feel the heavy legs from his 214-minute bout with Zverev.

Not even Djokovic can out-move Medvedev. And the Russian’s uniquely quick serve has plenty of pop. He is due to win a Grand Slam.

But Medvedev will have to pull off a miracle against one of the smartest and slyest players tennis has ever seen if he is to win this U.S. Open.


James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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