Two matches left. Tomorrow’s semi-final against Dominic Thiem and a Sunday final, weather permitting, are all that stand in Novak Djokovic’s way. He edges closer to making yet more history: being only the second player in history after Rod Laver, to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously.
Considering the unpredictable nature of the women’s game in contrast, coupled with the Roger Federer – Rafael Nadal duopoly which pushed the top players to ever-soaring heights, Djokovic has been imperious at times.
Excellent and yet delicately vulnerable at other points, the 32-year-old Serbian has 15 Slams to his name and there’s no reason why he cannot maintain these high levels for years to come.
As for the younger generation, the talented hopefuls eager to take over like Novak and his adversaries once did, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Alexander Zverev, seeded fifth at Roland Garros this year, has all the makings of a Grand Slam champion.
However despite promising spells, especially during a first-set battle, the 22-year-old German folded with the pressure at its highest point on this occasion.
Zverev made to pay for costly mistakes
A purposeful, aggressive start by Zverev saw him afforded a golden opportunity to close out the opening set with a 5-4 advantage. However, he lost six consecutive games and struggled to fully recover against a ruthless Djokovic.
He took full advantage of the youngster’s dip and made him pay for a succession of missed chances, particularly with double-faults and straight-forward volley shots his undoing.
He hit 35 winners to Novak’s 24, but also had more than double the Serb’s unforced errors (18) with a whopping 40. Add to that eight double-faults and only winning 46% of net points, it was an afternoon to forget for Zverev – time to go back to the drawing board.
Novak saved seven of eight break points contested and after that tense opener, breezed to a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Zverev. He’ll play against the aforementioned Thiem in Friday’s semi-final after his straight-sets win over Karen Khachanov elsewhere in the rain-delayed last-eight games.
With an eyewatering 25-match winning streak at majors, Novak’s quest to complete a second Nole Slam is very much on.
It will be his ninth semi-final encounter at Roland Garros and provided he gets through unscathed against the Austrian – who has been excellent so far this tournament – he’ll play either Federer or Nadal in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic was full of praise for both Zverev and tomorrow’s opponent in Thiem, while reflective on what could have been a completely different match altogether had he not won the first set.
“It was important to start off well, I didn’t play my best in the first set and things could have gone differently but I made him play, got the break back and after that I could breathe a little better – started to play more free from the baseline and it was solid. Zverev is one of the best in the world so you need to be at your best to beat him.”
On the prospect of playing against Thiem, a finalist last year, he said: I saw he [Thiem] won his match quite comfortably, he’s in great shape and also one of the world’s best. This is one of his best and most favoured surfaces and it will be our first matchup on the new Chatrier court. We are obviously both motivated, so let the best man win.”